Protocols breached in OFWs’ return to Bohol

Topic |  

Protocols breached in OFWs’ return to Bohol

Topic |  

NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.

No less than the chief implementer of the National Task Force against Covid19, Sec. Carlito Galvez Jr., admitted that breaches in the protocols on sending home of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) also surprised him.

Galvez, however, promised to look into the complaints from the provinces.

The issue cropped up on May 7 when Gov. Art Yap learned about another batch of OFWs being scheduled to sail home to their provinces, without a single national agency officially coordinating with him.


Yap said he only learned of the news at about 4:30 p.m. on May 7 when at such time, the OFWs were already sailing to Cebu.

The information was relayed by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to the Provincial Emergency Management Administration (PEMA) and it was from the latter that the governor learned about the information.

All the information available then was that 230 returning OFWs would arrive in Cebu in the morning of May 8.

The information did not include as to how many Boholanos would be with them, except that in that flight, there would be Boholanos.

From Cebu, the undetermined number of Boholanos would proceed to Bohol.

“We were also informed that they have been given PCR tests and that, allegedly, the results for the retuning OFWs are Covid Negative,” Yap said.


This prompted Yap to reach out to Galvez and DILG Sec. Eduardo Año.


At around 7 p.m. that day, Yap sent text messages to Galvez and Año, informing them that nobody has reached him formally as of that time, and no explanation had been forthcoming.

“There is no one agency that coordinates returning OFWs with the Province of Bohol. Sometimes it is the IATF, sometimes it is the MARINA and sometimes it is the OWWA who coordinates with our office,” according to Yap.

In his text messages to Año and Galvez, Yap asked for close coordination regarding the news he received at about 4:30 p.m. that day regarding returning OFWs.


“I stressed the urgency of coordination because I need to make sure that individual PCR certifications and 14-day quarantine certifications for the returning OFWs will be issued. I also wish to be clarified if these returning OFWs are part of the original list of 262 OFWs I was furnished on April 25, 2020,” Yap said.

While waiting for the response of the two secretaries, Yap urgently coordinated with some mayors and property owners to arrange the accommodation of the OFWs for their quarantine when they would arrive.


It was already about 9 p.m. when Yap got a call from OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac, confirming that of the 230 returning OFWs, only three were from Bohol.

At around 9:30 p.m., Yap was able to speak with DILG Usec. Epimaco Densing, who was asked by Año to coordinate with him on the repatriation of OFWs back home to Bohol.

“I registered my disappointment with why my request for a one-week advanced warning for any returning OFWs was ignored. He (Densing) intimated that he was also very surprised by the developments of events,” Yap said.

Densing told Yap that the DILG found out only in the morning of that day (May 7) that there were 230 OFWs bound for Cebu on May 8, violating as well their 72-hour protocol for advanced coordination.

Yap said Densing also told him that the order came from the Office of the President to keep the flow of returning OFWs moving towards their home provinces and that the Philippine Coast Guard is the agency coordinating with the DILG on the number of returning OFWs.

The governor was also assured that all returning OFWs would be certified as Covid-negative from their PCR tests and will have completed a 14-day quarantine.

OWWA-Cebu also confirmed to the PEMA secretariat that they would try to send home at least 58 returning OFWs who had been quarantined in Cebu and tested negative on a PCR Test.

Looking at the number, the governor calculated that in the morning of May 8, at least 61 returning Boholano OFWs would be arriving.

Actually, only 51 OFWs arrived early morning yesterday (May 9) and all of them were those quarantined in Cebu and the three from Manila were not with them.

After Yap’s conversation with Cacdac late night on May 7, Galvez called the governor and explained that theDepartment of Tourism is the agency that is coordinating the use of hotels for quarantine purposes, while the DILG is the one coordinating for local stranded individuals, and the Philippine Coast Guard and the DOTR are in charge of returning OFWs.

“He (Galvez) was also surprised that the protocols were not followed but promised to look into our complaints. I asked for support about testing kits and the status of our testing laboratory and Sec. Galvez said that he will be sending us some rapid test kits this weekend,” Yap said.

Realizing the little time left for the preparation, Provincial Administrator Kathyrin Pioquinto stayed up late to arrange and coordinate the quarantine facilities with the DOT, the DOH and the DILG.

Pioquinto also got in touch with League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP)-Bohol Chapter President Miriam Sumaylo.

DILG-Bohol Provincial Director Jerome Gonzales then informed the Pioquinto that Panglao Mayor Nila Montero had also been informed of the developments.

Fast forward to May 9: at around 4 a.m., 51 Boholano OFWs, who were quarantined in Cebu for more than 14 days, arrived at Tagbilaran City Port and “are now safely billeted in a quarantine facility as designated by the DOT and the IATF”- -at The Story Resort in Danao, Panglao.

The 51 belonged to the original batch in the list of IATF indicated “more than two weeks ago”.

Each of them has the endorsement or certification that they completed the mandatory 14-day quarantine and that they proved negative of Covid 19 in the PCR test.

While in quarantine here in Bohol, they will be monitored by frontliners; and each would be subjected to a second PCR test within the week.

NOTE: This story was first published in The Bohol Chronicle’s Sunday print edition.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply