MANILA -- The Philippines will reopen international airports outside Metro Manila for repatriated overseas Filipino workers, an official said Thursday as the government moved to bring home more of its nationals.
The Clark International Airport in Pampanga will start receiving international flights of repatriated OFWs on Friday, Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) President and COVID-19 policy deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon said.
The move came as the government raised its COVID-19 testing capacity to over 40,000 per day, Dizon said.
"Ang gagawin po natin ngayon sa mga susunod na linggo ay idi-decentralize na po natin ang arrivals ng ating OFWs," he said in a Palace press briefing.
(We will decentralize the arrivals of OFWs)
"Dahil po tumataas na ang capacity ng ating mga probinsya at ng ating mga siyudad sa labas ng Metro Manila, magagawa na po natin ito ngayon para po mapadali ang pag-uwi at makasama ng ating mga kababayang mga OFWs ang kanilang mga pamilya," he said.
(Because the capacity of cities and provinces outside Metro Manila is improving, we can now open more airports so that OFWs can be with their families faster.)
At present, all repatriated OFWs arrive in Metro Manila where they undergo the mandatory testing for coronavirus and a 14-day facility-based quarantine.
Once cleared, the government facilitates their transportation to their home provinces.
Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said the government was finding ways to prepare provinces for the arrival of OFWs so that a stopover in Metro Manila would no longer be necessary.
"Kaya nga tinaas natin yung testing capacity sa mga probinsya para kapag dumagsa na yung mas marami pang OFWs ay pupwede pauwiin na sila sa probinsya. Doon na sila magswab at doon na rin mag-quarantine," Roque said.
(We increased the testing capacity in the provinces so that when more OFWs arrive, they can easily go home. They can be swabbed and quarantined there.)
Some 16,000 overseas Filipino workers displaced by the coronavirus pandemic will come home this month, the Department of Labor and Employment said.
The pandemic has left some 341,161 OFWs out of work, the labor department said.