Espinoza: Borne out of envy?

Elias L. Espinoza
·3 min read

THE sudden change in the protocols for the Covid-19 testing on the returning overseas Filipinos (ROF) and the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is simply unrealistic and could again be misunderstood as another mode of fleecing this government of its almost dried up resources.

The ROFs and OFWS will undergo the RT-PCR test for Covid-19 only on the sixth day upon their arrival in the country under this new whole-of-nation protocol that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) pays for the OFWs stay in the hotel.

This new health protocol for the ROFs and OFWs is in contrast with Executive Order (EO) 17 of Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia that she signed on March 30, 2021, wherein the ROFs and OFWs will be tested immediately upon their arrival at the Mactan International Airport (MCIA) and they will be quarantined in the designated hotels. They can leave after three days and return to their respective homes when the test is negative of Covid-19 infection.

"Repressive" was to me generous when Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia called out on this new whole-of-nation quarantine policy of the IATF that its health advisers wanted to impose. To me, this new whole-of-nation quarantine policy is pathetic and borne out of envy that Central Visayas, particularly the Province of Cebu, the cities and towns were able to contain the contagion after the second surge about two months ago.

As a testament to the efforts of the people behind in containing the Covid-19 contagion in Central Visayas, IATF Deputy Implementer retired Army Major General Mel Feliciano presented a book on Cebu best practices in Covid-19 response and vaccination program to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdia and Senator Bong Go during their visit to Cebu City last week. The event was witnessed by OPAV Secretary Mike Dino.

In response to what she calls "repressive" whole-of-nation quarantine policy during her press conference in San Francisco, Camotes, Governor Garcia said the Province of Cebu, including the component cities and towns, will continue with the testing of OFWs and ROFs upon their arrival at the MCIA and not on the sixth day as imposed by the health advisers of the IATF.

The governor's EO 17 will be transformed into a law, a Provincial Ordinance. The governor's strong stand on this issue is supported by Section 105 of the Local Government Code. If I remember correctly, in all the resolutions of the IATF even during the period of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), the chief executives of every local government units (LGUs) are given flexibility to do what is best for its constituents.

Without doubt, this new whole-of-nation quarantine policy would further burden Owwa that pays for the hotel accommodation of the quarantined OFWs. It's a pity for the ROFs as they have to shoulder the cost of their hotel accommodation. Dr. Mary Jean Loreche, DOH-Central Visayas spokesperson, said that to test the OFWs on the sixth day from their arrival would further bleed the government.

The quarantine facility in hotels charges Owwa between P1,400 to P1,800 per day per OFW and for six days quarantine at P1,400 per day, that would be P8,400 instead of the shorter period of three days while waiting for the result of the RT-PCR test. Did these health advisers ever consider that this administration has already borrowed billions in fighting this pandemic?

The opposition of Governor Garcia on this whole-of-nation quarantine policy is praiseworthy that Malacañang should reconsider and instead replicate Cebu's best practices that it was able to contain the contagion while keeping the economy open.