‘Filthy’ quarantine hotel no more? Gov’t addresses OFW’s complaint, but questions remain

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 18 2020 11:15 PM

MANILA—A few days after ABS-CBN News reported Tuesday the plight of returning overseas Filipino workers who were quarantined at a “filthy and unhygienic” hotel in Quezon City, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said it has taken steps to address their complaint.

OWWA deputy administrator Faustino Sabarez said in a phone call Friday that he visited the hotel in Novaliches on Thursday upon instructions of OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac, who reached out to ABS-CBN News on Twitter on Wednesday.

“After the day na lumabas ’yung video, I instructed kaagad ’yung aming RAD (repatriation and assistance division) department and MARINA (Maritime Industry Authority). Si MARINA and RAD department cinall agad ang attention,” he said.

(After the day the video came out, I immediately instructed our RAD department and MARINA. MARINA and RAD called the attention of the manning agency.)

“Kinabukasan naman, noong hapon, ay inayos na ng hotel management ’yung kanilang services, pati ’yung manning agency.” 

(The next day, in the afternoon, hotel management fixed the services, including the manning agency.)

Sabarez provided photos of the clean rooms and balconies as well, as meals and water provided to the OFWs.

“’Yung kanilang food delivery ay OK naman. Napakaganda na ng pag-aasikaso sa kanila,” he said.

The seafarer who complained to ABS-CBN News confirmed the visit of an OWWA official on Thursday but clarified that the OFWs themselves already cleaned most of the rooms with cleaning materials the hotel provided them.

“Few rooms lang ’yung nilinis nila. Hindi na rin nag-complain ’yung iba dahil ayaw na nilang gawing big deal. As per my colleagues, OK na sila, basta may provided na cleaning materials,” the OFW said, adding that “sa food walang problema.”

The Office of Sen. Risa Hontiveros sent relief goods on Thursday, which were distributed to the OFWs Friday. These include a bag of rice, canned goods, toothpaste, toothbrush and shampoo.

“Pakisabi sa office ni senator, we’re grateful sa help and sympathy niya,” said the OFW.

(Please tell the office of the senator that we’re grateful for her help and her sympathy.)

The manning agency and the hotel have not responded to ABS-CBN News’ request for comment, but the OFW confirmed they received hygiene kits from the manning agency a day after the report came out.

The manning agency had earlier provided water, coffee, an electric kettle, mug and other supplies on Monday night.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health (DOH) and the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) have not responded yet to an ABS-CBN News query about a guideline prohibiting OFWs from posting on social media.

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE

The OFW is thankful for OWWA’s response and the help from the media, but hopes the succeeding batches of repatriates will be quarantined in clean and safe facilities.

“Sana talaga ma-check na ng DOH/BOQ ’yung area nang mabuti bago gamitin,” the worker said.

(We hope the DOH/BOQ really checks the area well before it is used.)

“Hindi kami nanghihingi ng special treatment, but we’re just asking for a fair and humane treatment.”

Still, the OFW has unanswered questions:

  • Why were they placed in a filthy/abandoned hotel?
  • Which agency is responsible for their situation? The BOQ? The DOH? The OWWA? Or the manning agency?
  • Why are there guidelines prohibiting posting on social media?
  • Why were they placed at a hotel in a crowded area near a public market?

“Sana may marinig kaming maayos na sagot sa government and manning agency bago matapos ang quarantine period namin,” the OFW said.

(We hope to hear valid answers from the government and the manning agency before our quarantine period ends.)

The OFW also asked the public not to discriminate against returning migrant workers.

“[A]ng mga repatriated seafarers, andaming nag-judge as if confirmed COVID-19 cases kami. We are just abiding by the quarantine policies. Na-quarantine na din kami more than 14 days pa nga sa mga respective fleets namin,” the OFW said.

“Sana ’yung iba, magbasa nang mabuti bago mag-pass ng judgment. Alamin ano difference ng PUI (person under investigation), PUM (person under monitoring) at confirmed.”

The DOH has since shifted to classifying patients into suspected, probable and confirmed COVID-19 cases.

The OFWs expect to end their 14-day quarantine by the end of next week.