BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The solon and the mayor here have fired off two separate letters to the head of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration seeking the assistance of his office on the repatriation of overseas workers here.
Lone District Cong. Greg Gasataya, the first to fire off a letter 13 April, asking the labor department agency to provide temporary financial support for stranded OFWs.
Mayor Evelio Leonardia, on the other hand, said in his letter to Cacdac dated 29 April that the help of OWWA had been “sorely wanting.”
Gasataya, in a letter addressed to OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, had already sought help on behalf of the 206 Bacolodnon OFWs who had been stranded in Metro Manila after President Duterte announced an enhanced community quarantine over Luzon.
Gasataya said the OFWs had been reduced to staying at the airport or even in the streets as they have nowhere to go. The OFWs had also sought help from the city of Bacolod to be sent home as they were saddled with the “lack of mode transportation and financial incapability”, following safety protocols.
Some of the OFWs had told him that they had undergone a 14-day quarantine period and are even holders of health Clearance Certifications, Gasataya said.
“The City of Bacolod has likewise expressed its intent to give them entry to the city provided the observance of safety protocols against COVID-19,” the solon added.
The final arrangements and commitments for the accommodations of the repatriated OFWs must be shouldered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Leonardia said.
The mayor told Cacdac the agency should utilize the “special funds” given by national government that are supposedly allocated for the OFWs’ hotel accommodations.
Leonardia cited the Department of Labor and Employment Order No. 211 last 21 March, 2020, which says that OWWA should “provide (hotel) accommodation assistance to distressed OFWs during the period of the Enhanced Community Quarantine” under OWWA Project Care.
The mayor said the primary responsibility for extending “accommodation assistance” to OFWs falls on the hands of the OWWA, and not that of the concerned LGU.
“Sir, we are sorry to say that this assistance from your Office is sorely wanting for OFWs homebound for Bacolod,” he said.
Another non-negotiable, the mayor said, is the 14-day quarantine which the arriving OFWs, who should be automatically classified as PUMs, must undergo “even if they had previously done so elsewhere.”
The mayor also revealed that head for Action Team on Returning OFWs (ATRO) head Councilor Israel Salanga has been inviting staff from OWWA for close coordination on the case of the repatriated OFWs.
“Unfortunately, they had been unable to attend for reasons unknown to us,” the mayor said.
The mayor added that the LGU could not afford to shoulder the cost of accommodations if they would be accommodated in a hotel room with meals at P2,500 per day. Multiply that by about 800 OFWs and that would mean a total cost of P28 million which would be a “drain in our local funds.”
The mayor also said because of OWWA’s inability to provide for the OFWs, the LGU had to provide for them “in the best way we can”.
“Now we are being condemned for these humble yet decent accommodations, which by the way are found adequate enough to host visiting athletes during sports meets and other DepEd events,” he said.
Earlier, pictures of the accommodations cropped up on social media, as some of those repatriated expressed disappointment about the apparently dismal living conditions in the elementary campus which was used as quarantine facility.
A couple of OFWs interviewed by DNX cited the presence of cockroaches, unclean toilets, “dusty” folding beds and appliances, among others.
The OFWs also appealed to the city to treat them with a little dignity.
For the interview of OFWs, click on the video below.