Senator Risa Hontiveros on Friday urged government to improve its assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) returning to the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as she sent relief packs for OFWs being held under quarantine in a hotel with poor and unhealthy conditions.
Hontiveros’s office delivered food packages and hygiene kits to help the over a hundred OFWs staying in a designated quarantine hotel in Novaliches, Quezon City, after a media report revealed that the workers decried the hotel’s poor sanitation and unsatisfactory services. The OFWs – who were working as seafarers- supposedly encountered dirty linen, insects on the hotel room floors, and brown water coming out of the hotel’s faucets.
“Nagpadala po muna tayo ng paunang tulong para naman makakain at makapaglinis ng maayos ang ating mga OFWs na nasa hotel na ito. Definitely, it is unacceptable that our OFWs in this time of crisis are forced to suffer these unhealthy, unhygienic and undignified conditions, and government should act swiftly and decisively to solve this problem,” she said.
The Senator noted that it is the Department of Health (DOH), through the Bureau of Quarantine, which clears and overseas the hotels being used for the mandatory 14-day quarantine imposed on overseas workers returning to the country. The department, she said, must do more to prevent quarantine hotels from being “hotspots of diseases not limited to COVID-19.”
“We are urging DOH to use its powers and resources and see to it that the concerns and complaints of these poor workers are immediately addressed. Huwag naman sana nating hayaan na magkasakit pa ang ating mga manggagawa dahil sa kawalan ng kalinisan ng kanilang tinutuluyan,” she added.
Hontiveros then urged government agencies taking the lead in the fight against COVID-19 to ensure that OFWs – especially those who have lost their jobs and those who cannot return to their work overseas- will be provided more assistance by relevant government units during and after the current health crisis.
Particularly, she said that the DOH and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) must ensure that OFWs stranded because of the ongoing travel bans, and those who are being held under quarantine, have proper food and lodging during the crisis. She added that these OFWs must be also provided with emergency subsidy programs, so that their families can cope with the sudden loss of income due to the pandemic.
“Ngayong nasa quarantine ang ating mga OFW at hindi natin sila pinapayagang bumiyahe, responsibilidad ng pamahalaan na siguraduhing ligtas at matiwasay na nabubuhay ang mga overseas workers at ang kanilang pamilya. Government must respond to the sacrifices and hardships of our OFWs with immediate and efficient government assistance,” she said./Stacy Ang