Press Release
July 1, 2020

As IATF streamlines int'l arrival procedures, Bong Go says health and safety protocols must be in place to protect returning OFWs and their families

Senator Christopher Lawrence "Bong" Go commended the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases and other concerned government agencies for laying down necessary health and safety protocols for returning overseas Filipinos in an effort to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

He also appealed to returning Filipinos to bear with and strictly follow current guidelines when arriving in the country as the government is determined to assist them in safely reuniting with their families amid the ongoing global pandemic.

"Sa ating mga kababayang Pilipino na uuwi ng Pilipinas, may mga nilatag na health and safety protocols ang ating gobyerno upang protektahan po kayo at ang inyong mga pamilya. Sundin natin ito para masiguro nating magiging ligtas din ang mga mahal ninyo sa buhay sa inyong pag-uwi," the Senator said.

"Sa anumang mga hakbang na gagawin ng gobyerno at pati ng mga ordinaryong mamamayan, palagi nating unahin ang buhay at kapakanan ng kapwa nating Pilipino," Go added.

The IATF, Philippine Red Cross and Department of Health have recently released a step-by-step procedure of the processes being implemented at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for Filipinos arriving in the country.

There are eight steps returnees must follow upon arrival. First, they are required to register online by filling out a form and upload their passport's bio page. They will then be given a Quick Response (QR) code through a confirmation email, and which must be saved on their phones and printed to be presented upon arrival in the country along with the passport.

A briefing will then be given to returning Filipinos to discuss other health and safety protocols in place before they can go home. After which, they will proceed to the verification counter to process pertinent documents. A short interview will also be conducted to check on their travel records and health status.

Each person will be handed with six barcode stickers---one will be affixed at the back of their passport while the rest will be given to the person who will perform the swab testing in the designated swabbing booth.

After testing, they will proceed to immigration and follow the usual process. Once they get through immigration, Filipinos would need to go to their respective help desks for their quarantine facility assignment. Specifically, OFWs will proceed to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration desk, seafarers to their local manning agency, if any, and non-OFW returning Filipinos to the Department of Tourism desk. The returning Filipinos will have to stay for a few days in the partner hotels designated as quarantine facilities while waiting for their COVID-19 swab test results.

Within 72 hours, the IATF assured that each returning Filipino will receive a message indicating results of their tests. If negative, the government will release a medical certificate for them to be cleared to go home. If they test positive, health personnel will assist them to get taken care of until they are well. In the meantime, there is also a 24-hour helpline and desk in all hotels designated as quarantine facilities.

"Alam kong mahaba ang magiging proseso ng inyong pagdating dito sa bansa pero ginagawa lamang natin ito para sa kapakanan at kaligtasan ng lahat. Hinihingi ko ang inyong pasensya, unawa at pakikisama sa panahong tulad nito kung saan health and safety ng lahat ang ating prayoridad," Go said.

As the Senate Chair of the Committee on Health, Go commended the collaborative effort of the IATF, PRC and DOH. The protocol, Go mentioned, will ensure the safety of returning Filipinos.

"Maraming salamat sa mga ahensya ng gobyerno at ibang sektor, lalong lalo na sa IATF, PRC at DOH na patuloy na gumagawa ng paraan para maisaayos natin ang proseso ng pagdating ng ating mga kababayan," Go said.

The Senator also lauded the OWWA, DOT and their partner-hotels for providing quarantine facilities to host returning Filipinos. Go also thanked the different local manning agencies for OFWs, and the administration and staff of NAIA for their efforts in helping Filipinos come home safely amid the threat of COVID-19.

"Nagpapasalamat tayo sa lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno, partner agencies at institutions para sa inyong serbisyo at sakripisyo upang matulungan ang ating mga kababayan na makauwi sa bansa nang ligtas," Go said.

Go reiterated that it is important to make sure that proper health and safety protocols are in place in order to avoid the spread of COVID-19. Proper coordination must also be conducted to make sure that receiving local government units are willing and ready to accept their constituents before they return home to their provinces.

"Nais ko ipaalala sa lahat na hindi natin pwedeng ipagkait ang karapatan ng mga Pilipino na makauwi sa sarili nilang bayan. Sabi rin mismo ni Pangulong Duterte, 'mga Pilipino ito, mga kababayan natin. Tanggapin ninyo. Whatever you need, we will provide. Kawawa naman. Tulungan ninyo ang mga Pilipino'," Go said.

The National Task Force on COVID-19 recently increased the daily capacity of OFWs returning to the Philippines, from 1,200-1,500 individuals to 3,000 per day. The foreign affairs department had asked last Friday that the said repatriation cap be increased given the rising number of OFWs that need to be repatriated as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, to further improve government response to OFW concerns, Go filed in July of last year Senate Bill (SB) No. 202 or the Department of Overseas Filipinos Act of 2019. The measure seeks to address perennial issues, such as the need to improve coordination among concerned offices, hence the proposal to put them together under one department to avoid finger-pointing among agencies concerned with overseas Filipinos and OFW affairs.

If passed into law, OFW-related agencies and their powers and functions, funds and appropriations, records, equipment, property, and personnel will be transferred to the new department to be established.

Go has firmly suggested that the need to establish such an executive department will improve government efficiency and effectiveness in the provision of necessary services to OFWs especially in light of the current pandemic.

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