Repatriated OFWs appeal to local officials for more suitable quarantine facility, worry over harassment but city official says OWWA violated protocol by sending them home

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BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – Several repatriated Bacoleños here are appealing to local officials to find them a more suitable quarantine facility that one OFW compared to an “evacuation center during a typhoon.”

The councilor who chairs the Quarantine Centers Action Team (QCAT), however, said the OFWs must “understand that the city is only accomodating them temporarily” while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has yet to find a quarantine facility for them.

“I hope they treat us with a little dignity,” one of the three OFW told DNX in a phone interview from the Lopez Jaena Elementary School here.

“They are being accommodated according to our terms and according to the best we can come up with,” lawyer-councilor Renecito Novero told DNX.

All three, one a woman and two men, are seafarers who are part of the first batch of 28 OFWs whose return was assisted by the Action Team on Repatriated OFWs (ATRO) headed by Councilor Israel Salanga.

Jose (not his real name) said he was kept awake by the fear of being harassed by residents around the primary school that is rimmed by residential areas and is located near the main office of the Central Negros Electric Cooperative, the local electric utilities firm.

He said he had read a post on Facebook that said people around the school are planning to hurt or harass them.

“I heard a thud on the roof of the room I was staying in and I was kept awake because of that,” Jose said.

Aside from the fear, he said the facility itself is not suitable as a quarantine center as it has no proper ventilation.

Bacolod City councilor Atty. Renecito Novero. | Photo by Banjo C. Hinolan
Bacolod City Councilor Atty. Renecito Novero. | Photo by Banjo C. Hinolan

“The room gets really hot,” Jose said as he added they were only given an electric fan to make the room cool.

“We have to go out of our rooms when it is hot and we cannot avoid coming into contact with other OFWs in the same facility,” Jose said.

Sanitation is also wanting, he pointed out, as the room was full of dust, the toilet was dirty and there were cockroaches scurrying about.

Jose said he was also placed under quarantine in Metro Manila upon his arrival from abroad and he was checked in to a hotel that had free WiFi and air-conditioning among its amenities.

Jerry, the other seafarer, said he and Jose have the same observations but added he had no complain about the food “which is five star,” only that they are still being made to go out and get it.

Bacolod City Councilor Israel Salanga. | Photo by Banjo C. Hinolan
Bacolod City Councilor Israel Salanga. | Photo by Banjo C. Hinolan

Ideally, persons under quarantine stay inside their homes as per protocol he has observed when he was under isolation in Manila.

Tessa, the third OFW who is also in the same facility, said she hopes the city can treat them better as they have sacrificed working abroad and sending money home.

NO PROMISES

Novero, however, added that the city never “promised them the same level of accommodation like in Manila” because it was the OWWA that took care of their accommodation there.

The city dad also pointed out that the primary obligation to accommodate the OFWs belongs to OWWA and the employers of these repatriated OFWs.

Novero added OWWA even violated protocol in repatriating these OFWs as the city was not given enough time to prepare.

Novero said City Hall was informed only on Sunday only and they had to rush the preparation of the facility the next day.

“There is no signed letter of acceptance for these OFWs and this alone is a violation of protocols,” Novero added.

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