Hundreds of arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are being brought to government quarantine facilities even without being tested with the coronavirus disease due to lack of testing kits, according to migrant and recruitment expert Emmanuel Geslani.
In a statement, Geslani said that returning OFWs might suffer the same fate like the 24,000 recently dispatched by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to their homes and provinces who were stuck for more than two months in hotels and other government quarantine facilities due to the delay in the release of their health certificates.
He said the Philippine Coast Guard had stopped swab testing of all arriving OFWs at the NAIA but being required to go the mandatory 14-day quarantine period in government facilities where some COVID 19 infected patients were being treated
Geslani feared these OFWs who had just arrived from other countries and cleared by their host countries as COVID 19- free might be infected while undergoing the 14-day quarantine period.
“The Philippine Coast Guard recently announced that they have stopped swab testing at the NAIA due to the lack of testing kits and will instead do the testing for all arriving Filipinos at their quarantine facilities,” Geslani said.
This procedure will make the OFWs suffer again long periods of quarantine like what happened to the 24,000 who were quarantined for one-two months while waiting for test results, he said.
He said that OFWs who just arrived at the NAIA are supposed to be released within 3-5 days and those found negative can go home right away while those found positive will be brought to a COVID-19 quarantine facility.
Meanwhile, as community quarantine protocols remain in effect in the country, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) restarted its online legal assistance program to help OFWs and their families to file illegal recruitment cases.
POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia issued Memorandum Circular 12, series of 2020, on Wednesday containing the guidelines for its Legal Assistance Online platform to ensure the timely and effective delivery of legal services to safeguard the rights and welfare of OFWs.
“The provision of legal assistance online is an avenue for those seeking legal assistance without the need to travel all the way to the POEA main office,” the agency said in a statement.
It added that over 620 clients had been served by lawyers since the start of the community quarantine in mid-March.
Likewise, it received queries regarding contract violations, non-payment of wages and benefits, various forms of abuse, among others.
Aside from legal advice, POEA lawyers also provided welfare assistance related to repatriation and the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong program of the Department of Labor and Employment which is a cash assistance program for OFWs.
Also, reports on illegal recruitment and recruitment violations were handled and endorsed for proper investigation.
With limited transportation and mobility options, the service proved convenient and at the same time aligned with stay-at-home and community quarantine requirements.
The POEA advised overseas job seekers, OFWs, and their immediate families who would want to avail of free legal assistance to log on to the POEA legal assistance online platform at legalassistance.poea.gov.ph or e-mail the Legal Assistance Division at [email protected].
For more information, log on to the POEA website or the POEA Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch Facebook page at www.facebook.com/airbranch.
Prior to the pandemic, clients personally went to the agency’s main office in Mandaluyong City to personally seek legal advice and counseling on various overseas employment issues. With PNA