Allowing overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who have long been stranded in Metro Manila to enter Bohol is the province’s “small sacrifice” to help contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID) 19 in the nation’s capital region which has been heavily hit by the pandemic, said Governor Arthur Yap.
The governor during a press briefing at the Capitol on Monday said that Presidential Peace Adviser Carlito Galvez, Jr. who is the chief implementer of the government’s national response against COVID 19 explained that around 70,000 OFWs have been stranded in hotels and various facilities in Metro Manila and allowing them to go home to their provinces would help ease the burden on the strained healthcare system in the capital region and curb transmission of the virus.
So far, 262 OFWs in Manila and 81 in Cebu have started to undergo the process of being approved to return to Bohol.
“Nakasabot ko sa kalisod na ilang gi-atubang sa NCR karon. Sa dakong pagpa-ubos, medyo naulaw ko na akong gi huna-huna lang ang kaayuhan sa Bohol, maski ang atong nasud, ang atong kaulohan grabe na ang pag-antos,” Yap said.
Yap was caught by surprise when the national government approved the travel of OFWs into province late last week without prior notice to local authorities.
But the governor who “strongly registered” his objections against the lack of coordination from national authorities has since focused on preparing for the OFWs’ arrival instead after Galvez explained that the hastened approval was due to the “pressure” on the national government to let OFWs go home.
“Among gihisgutan ang tinuod sitwasyon sa kaulohan ug ang mga hulga na gi-atubang…pag-human sa among kombersasyon, nakasabot ko sa kalisud na ilang gi-atuban,” said Yap.
Bohol meanwhile has been a step ahead in preparing for the eventual return of OFWs as Yap announced two weeks ago the launch of “Oplan Exodus” which is the government’s preparation to accept returning Boholanos.
Oplan Exodus, which involved the setting up of quarantine centers for OFWs and preparation of protocols, drew flak from various sectors which heavily protested the move to open Bohol to off-island Boholanos.
Yap however stood by the initiative as he anticipated that the province would not be able to seal off its borders forever, especially for its returning residents.
The governor has also appealed for sobriety as he asked the public not to take out their fears on COVID-19 against the returning OFWs who he described as “modern-day” heroes who have lifted their families from poverty and spurred economic growth through remittances.
“We are all afraid to die. But a life lived in selfishness and fear is not living anyway. If we live in selfishness and fear, it is as if we have died already,” Yap said.
“True love is not shown in times of happiness and plenty. True love is shown in times of suffering and danger. This time of the pandemic, this time of COVID-19, is the time to show true love. Let us prepare to follow the protocols and slowly bring home our OFWs, and then other Bol-anons who wish to come home,” he added.
On Tuesday morning, 17 OFWs arrived at the Tagbilaran City port from Cebu. They were immediately transported to the Mercedarian Retreat House in Dauis where they will be quarantined for 14 days.
Prior to their arrival, they were quarantined in Cebu and tested for COVID-19 with each one of them yielding negative results.
Over 40 more OFWs from Metro Manila are set to arrive at the pier today.
According to Yap, all returning OFWs will be quarantined for at least 14 days and subjected to rapid COVID-19 testing seven days after their arrival in the province on top of the initial testing done at their places of origin.
The governor has repeatedly admitted that Bohol is not capable to deal with a COVID-19 outbreak which, he said, would “drown [Bohol’s] healthcare facilities.”
Yap said that protocols must instead be strictly followed to prevent local transmission of the disease considering that Bohol which remains COVID-free would need to “slowly bring home” Boholanos outside of the province.
He reminded the public to continue observing social distancing and obey policies set by the government including the curfew, liquor ban and mandatory wearing of facemasks outdoors.