If there was something we gained from the conflict between the protocols adopted by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Cebu Provincial Government for arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs), it is what benefits the ROFs. Why? Because like the OFWs, whose quarantine expenses are shouldered by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), the government will now foot the bill for the quarantine expenses of ROFs.
President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the use of the remaining funds under Republic Act 11519, or Bayanihan 2, for the quarantine expenses of balikbayans or returning Filipinos. “I am ordering now everybody, including the government units, i-hotel nila o anuhan, babayaran ng national government yan,” the President said during his Talk to the People program last week.
He made this statement after Gov. Gwen Garcia insisted that the Cebu protocol should be adopted for arriving OFWs and ROFs at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to lessen their financial burden. You see, without Gwen insisting on the Cebu protocol, this would not have not happened. So, the credit goes to our “fighting governor.” But did you know that the Owwa has a standing financial obligation to the various quarantine hotels for arriving OFWs? The amount is up to P300 million, covering three weeks of accommodation. These include the fare of each OFW in going home to their respective provinces. Under the 10-day quarantine period, the Owwa will pay a total of P25,000 per OFW in hotel accommodation.
You see that? Why should the government spend huge amount for OFWs’ quarantine when there is an economical way to do it, by adopting the Cebu protocol? Under the Cebu swab-upon-arrival protocol, the OFW will be allowed to go home after two days if found negative and to be home quarantined for the remaining days and another swab test on the seventh day. What a total waste of taxpayers’ money.
We already know that the goal and intention of any congressional inquiry is in aid of legislation. Such inquiries may refer to the implementation or re-examination of any law or appropriation or in connection with any proposed legislation or the formulation of, or in connection with future legislation or will aid in the review or formulation of a legislative policy or enactment.
But what is this move of the Senate that it will conduct an inquiry on the efficacy of the use of face shields against Covid-19 transmission? No less than Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III wants to know about the efficacy of wearing a face shield to thwart the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus. Thus, he filed Senate Resolution 757, calling for a Committee of the Whole investigation as well as an evaluation of the prevailing health and safety guidelines of the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
This is in view of the flip-flopping of Malacañang on the use of face shields. Earlier, the President already discouraged the use of face shields, except in hospitals. But when the Department of Health and IATF opposed it, the President changed his stand and urged the public to keep the policy on mandatory use of face shield in indoor and outdoor activities.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the government needs to listen to and believe in the experts’ findings that the use of face shields is effective in preventing the further transmission of Covid-19. “That’s what the science and experts have said. It is difficult to ignore the findings of the experts in the fields of medicine and epidemiology,” Roque said.
Sotto, in his resolution, said that for the marginalized and the poor, “a face shield is very costly for something that do not afford protection against the virus. Our people would rather invest in a proper face mask that is scientifically proven to protect them from the virus.”
Sotto also cited the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) resolution, which stated that “face shields are not as effective at protecting you or the people around you from respiratory droplets.” In its updated guidelines and recommendations, the CDC said “for face coverings to combat Covid-19, the face shields are not recommended protection.”
The CDC said “people can still wear them, but they should be worn with a face mask over their mouth at the same time. It is not known if face shields provide any benefit as source control to protect others from the spray of respiratory particles.” It added that “some people may choose to use a face shield when sustained close contact with other people is expected. If face shields are used without a mask, they should wrap around sides of the wearer’s face and extend below the chain.” They also noted that infants and newborns should not use plastic shields.
As what I have said, congressional inquiries are in aid of legislation. But what possible piece of legislation can the Senate do out of this issue? If it is proven that face shields do not help in protecting the spread of the virus, will they pass a law banning the use of face shields and make it illegal? We elected our legislators to craft laws that would benefit the majority of the people. They should spend their precious time by discussing important matters not nonsense issues such as this. Is this in aid of legislation or in “aid of reelection,” especially with the elections fast approaching? Just asking.