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Sun.Star Cebu - 2021-05-05

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Borne out of envy?

OPINION

ELIAS ESPINOZA atty.elliee@gmail.com

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-ofnation protocol that the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases issued. The Overseas Workers Welfare Addministration (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 Gov. Gwen Garcia that she signed on March 30, 2021 wherein the ROFs and OFWs will be tested immediately upon their arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) and they will be quarantined in 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 too generous a word when Cebu Gov. Gwen Garcia called out the IATF’s wholeof-nation quarantine policy. It is pathetic and borne out of envy that Central Visayas, particularly the Province of Cebu, was able to contain a potential surge two months ago. As a testament to the efforts of the people behind the success in Central Visayas, IATF Deputy Implementer retired Army Major Gen. Mel Feliciano presented a book on Cebu’s best practices in Covid-19 response and vaccination program to Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and Sen. 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” policy during her press conference in San Francisco, Camotes, the governor said the Province will continue testing OFWs and ROFs upon airport arrival. The governor’s EO 17 will be a Provincial Ordinance. The governor’s strong stand is backed 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 unit (LGU) are given flexibility to do what is best for their constituents. The new policy would further burden the Owwa, which 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 7 spokesperson, said that to test the OFWs on the sixth day from their arrival would further bleed the government of funds. 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, and that would be P8,400 instead of the shorter period of three days while waiting for the result of the RTPCR test. Did these health advisers ever consider that this administration has already borrowed billions in fighting this pandemic? The governor’s opposition is praiseworthy that Malacañang should instead copy Cebu’s practices.

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