MANILA—Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Saturday called for better treatment of Filipino migrant workers after reports of OFWs sleeping on an airport pavement went viral.
“They deserve a red carpet treatment, not a sidewalk reception,” Recto said in a statement. "Disturbing scenes such as these should now be a thing of the past."
More than 100 OFWs had spent the night outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport after talk emerged there were domestic flights that could fly them back to their home provinces.
Many of them were flown to Manila for free by recruitment agencies earlier this year but were abandoned following the lockdown, said Hans Cacdac, administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Friday said repatriated Filipino workers will only stay in Manila for a maximum of 5 days before they are taken to their provinces, as the government aims to fast-track the arrival of other returning citizens.
Lorenzana, who chairs the National Task Force on COVID-19, said the government has enough testing facilities to accommodate returning OFWs.
Recto welcomed the policy but also called on the task force to implement it “nationally, not just in Metro Manila.”
For the policy to be successfully enforced, “present testing and transportation capacities must increase together with the number of personnel,” the senator said.
“Kung kulang ng tao na sasalubong at aalalay sa kanila, pwedeng mag-hire. Halimbawa, kung mayroong mga sweeper flights sa ere, kailangan din ng mga sweeper teams on the ground na dadalhin sa mga hotels yung mga OFWs na natutulog sa sidewalk,” Recto noted.
“Let us hope that this is finally the beginning of a scaled up handling of returning OFWs so that the huge global backlog in OFWs wanting to go home will be reduced."
The senator also called on government to aid construction workers stranded in Metro Manila and other cities without work due to the enhanced community quarantine, which was implemented in parts of the country from March 15 until June 1.
“As we increase capacity for domestic repatriation, we should include jobless, homeless local workers, for they, too, have as much right to government help as their overseas counterparts,” Recto said.
Many unemployed workers had to “walk under the sun and under the stars” for weeks just to return to their homes with empty pockets, he said.
Official data earlier showed the Philippines' unemployment rate jumped to a record 17.7 percent during the coronavirus lockdown, translating to a total of 7.3 million unemployed Filipinos.