MANILA (UPDATED) - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday ordered government agencies to bring some 24,000 repatriated overseas Filipino workers to their home provinces within 1 week, his spokesman said.
Duterte gave the order to the departments of labor, health, and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration following reports that some OFWS have been stuck in Metro Manila for a month due to pending coronavirus test results, said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque.
"Hindi katanggap-tanggap sa ating Presidente na matapos maglingkod sa ating bayan ang mga OFWs na napahiwalay sa kanilang mga pamilya, nalungkot at nahirapang magbayad eh ngayon lalo pang mahihirapan habang naghihintay ng kanilang results," Roque said in a virtual press briefing.
(It's unacceptable to the President that our OFWs, after serving the country by being separated from their families, left alone and struggled to pay, are suffering more while waiting for their test results.)
"Sabi niya (Duterte) enough is enough -- 1 week -- otherwise, marami pong mananagot," he said in a separate DZMM interview.
(He said enough is enough -- they have 1 week -- otherwise, many will be held accountable.)
Agencies can use special powers under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act if necessary to meet the deadline, he said.
"Kung kinakailangan gamitin ang mga Air Force eroplano, gamitin. Kung kinakailangan gamitin ang Bayanihan Act para kumuha ng mga pribadong sasakyan, gamitin," said Roque.
(If Air Force choppers are needed, use those. If the Bayanihan Act is needed to get private cars, use it.)
Duterte also ordered the agencies to increase the capacity for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing in other areas, so that OFWs may directly go home to their provinces and complete their quarantine there, Roque said.
Thirty-five laboratories are accredited to run coronavirus tests nationwide, as of May 17.
The Philippines as of Sunday recorded some 14,035 cases of COVID-19, with 3,249 recoveries and 868 deaths.
Some 43,000 migrant workers are coming home to the Philippines until June, the labor department earlier said.