DILG to issue show cause order vs. LGUs refusing to accept returning OFWs

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 26)⁠— The Interior Department on Tuesday warned local officials it will issue show cause orders against government units that will refuse to accept returning overseas Filipino workers in their respective areas.

Speaking to CNN Philippines, DILG Undersecretary Epimaco Densing said all local governments have "no reason" to turn away returning workers, as they have already undergone the mandatory health protocols such as COVID-19 testing and quarantine.

"They have no reason not to accept the OFWs. Otherwise, we will send them a show cause order why they are not abiding or following the directive of the national government vis a vis the OFWs' return," Densing said in an interview with The Source.

"Based on our advisory, all LGUs should accept the OFWs. Lahat po sila (all OFWs) have the certifications of the 14-day quarantine, all of them also have the certifications that they have undertaken RT-PCR tests and they have negative results. So walang dahilan ang mga LGUs para hindi tanggapin ang mga OFWs (There's no reason for the LGUs not to accept the OFWs)," he added.

Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said separately that he himself will run after LGUs that would impose tight protocols for the entry of the returning workers.

"Sa mga LGUs na masyadong mahigpit, at lumalabag sa ating panuntunan, I am warning you, stop niyo 'yan. Kasi hindi pwedeng sabihin niyo na zero COVID kami kaya hindi kami tatanggap ng OFW," Año said in the virtual Laging Handa media briefing later in the day.

[Translation: For our LGUs that are too strict and not abiding by our rules, I am warning you, stop that. You can't say that you have zero COVID cases, that's why you wouldn't want to accept the OFWs.]

"I myself will make sure na hahabulin ko kayo, sapagkat hindi 'yan in accordance sa ating Bayanihan Act at sa pinag-uutos ng Pangulo."

[Translation: I myself will make sure to run after you, because that is not in accordance with our Bayanihan (to Heal as One) Act and our President's directive.]

The agency will meanwhile leave it up to the respective local governments to implement additional health protocols— such as another round of quarantine— should it be deemed necessary, according to Densing.

Local governments not accepting?

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier ordered agencies to speed up the release of COVID-19 test results of over 24,000 returning OFWs stuck in quarantine facilities.

In his public address on Monday evening, Duterte reiterated his appeal for the regional governments to welcome the residents, claiming that some units have been turning down the OFWs' return to their hometowns.

"They (OFWs) are stranded in the sense that they are not allowed or they cannot go home because the local governments are not accepting them," Duterte said.

While the President acknowledged how some officials wanted to "protect their turf", he said it is "very cruel" for them to deny the move amid the crisis.

“It is the constitutional right of people to travel and go home. Do not impede it. Do not obstruct the movement of people because you run the risk of getting sued criminally,” Duterte said, noting he has ordered the use of all government-owned air, water, and land modes of transportation to bring home the OFWs.

Some provincial governors earlier aired their concerns about the possible surge in coronavirus cases in their localities from migrants who may be infected by the infectious disease.

But officials from the national government have assured that the returning OFWs— by the time they reach their regions— would already be cleared from the quarantine and testing measures.

The Philippines expects to welcome around 60,000 OFWs in next two months, while over 300,000 are estimated to return for the rest of the year.

The Labor Department said officials are targeting to send home all OFWs who have tested negative and completed their quarantine requirements by Wednesday.