NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.
Is Bohol ready for deluge of OFWs?
But Bohol is now confronted with the dilemma owing to the travel authority issued by the National Task Force Against Covid 19 for 262 Boholano OFWs to return to the province in batches starting this week.
The travel authority covers over a thousand OFWs headed to provinces in three Visayas regions- -Aklan, Antique, Negros Occidental, Capiz, Guimaras, Northern Samar, Eastern Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Siquijor and Bohol; some provinces in Mindanao; and also Masbate.
The unilateral instruction left provincial officials and medical practitioners in these provinces with no bargaining but just to allow entry.
The OFWs will be sent to their respective provinces through 2Go Malasakit Voyage.
OFWs in the first batch are expected to arrive Monday night.
For his part, Gov. Art Yap yesterday sent a letter to Sec. Carlito Galvez, chief implementor of COVID 19 National Action Plan, for the latter to understand the situation in Bohol.
The governor first sent Galvez a message at 11:32 a.m. “hoping to personally speak to” the latter but unfortunately it did not have an opportunity.
By 4 p.m., Yap decided to send an urgent note to convey what he was supposed to personally relay to Galvez.
Yap told Galvez in the letter that he learned about the travel authority given to the OFWs at 11 a.m. Provincial Administrator Kathyrin Pioquinto that Marina-7 Regional Director Marc Pascua had reached her to inform her that the travel authority of 262 returning OFWs to Bohol from Manila, divided into three mercy trip batches in the coming week, have been approved and issued last April 20.
They are supposed to board the 2GO vessels.
“While we will be out of place to disobey direct orders from your office, I want to request that we at least discuss these matters directly and clearly, because I must apprise you about the reality of our situation on the ground. Please do not think that since we have remained “Covid Free”, we are free to just receive people coming back from infected zones like Manila or Cebu. Please do not think we are not under threat or that we can manage the situation,” Yap pointed out to Galvez.
The governor also explained to Galvez that Bohol “barely has 25 ventilators in the entire province”.
“We just have 33 beds ready for a first wave of infections at the Gallares DOH Hospital in Tagbilaran City. We barely have enough municipal and city based quarantine and isolation capacity to take care of those with mild-severe respiratory ailments. Clearly, a surge of infections, will collapse our healthcare system and render us unable to protect the people of Bohol from this Pandemic,” Yap added.
He further explained that “until we can agree on a proper schedule of travel and arrivals, until we can agree on the pre-travel testing and arrival testing protocols, it would be reckless and irresponsible to place an island of 1.4 million people with an area of 4,000 square kilometers, at risk”.
“I ask: “why should we risk infecting an island province which has remained Covid free?” Bohol has managed to survive, financing from its own local funds, all its anti-Covid efforts without disturbing the National Government for support. All we ask is that you support us by coordinating efforts with us without endangering people here,” Yap told Galvez in his letter.
The governor wanted to discuss with Galvez, “the proper scheduling of arrivals and agreement on testing protocols and other arrangements to be assured of the mutual health and safety of all involved, especially, the greater majority in the island of Bohol”.
“We are all Filipinos and we belong to one nation. If we can do our part to help solve the problems in the NCR, count us to do our part. We will do that if we can preserve the delicate balance in Bohol, not by destabilizing it,” Yap pointed out to Galvez.
Yap furnished DILG Sec. Eduardo Año with a copy of his letter to Galvez.
The 2Go Malasakit Voyage route schedule shows that Cluster A, bringing 409 OFWs, departed Manila at 7 a.m. yesterday (April 25) and headed to Cebu, then to Cagayan de Oro, then to Nasipit, back to Cebu then Manila.
For Visayas destinations in Cluster A, 232 will disembark in Cebu and 71 in Bohol.
For Mindanao destination in Cluster A, 70 will disembark at the port of Cagayan de Oro- -40 are going home to Cagayan de Oro City, 11 to Bukidnon, 15 to Misamis Oriental, and four to Camiguin.
At least 36 are disembarking at the Port of Nasipit- -15 are headed to Agusan del Norte, five to Agusan del Sur, and 16 to Surigao del Sur.
Cluster B covers 391 persons who will depart at 10 p.m. today (April 26) and will sail to Cebu-Dumaguete-Ozamiz-Iligan-Zamboanga-Dumaguete-Cebu-Manila.
The route schedule still listed 232 to arrive Cebu, and 71 to arrive Bohol.
Around 30 will arrive at the port of Dumaguete- -11 are bound to some points in the city, while 11 are bound to other points of Negros Oriental, and eight will proceed to Siquijor.
Also in Cluster B are nine to disembark at the Port of Ozamis, 14 at the Port of Iligan, and 35 at the Port of Zamboanga.
Cluster C covers 336 persons who will depart at 1 p.m. on Monday and will disembark at the ports of Bacolod and Iloilo.