Unheroes’ welcome? Coronavirus changes the way people, government welcome returning OFWs

By Antonio Manaytay

It’s no longer a welcome fitting for unsung heroes as the initial batch of Overseas Filipino Workers will arrive in Zamboanga Sibugay on Wednesday. The pandemic has changed the way people and governments welcome them because of COVID-19 scare.

The initial batch of OFWs, composed of seafarers, will arrive in Zamboanga City at 9 p.m. on April 29.

These OFWs, according to Regional Director Paisal Abutazil of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), have already undergone quarantine and passed the rapid antibody tests in Manila.

But the 16 mayors of Zamboanga Sibugay have remained divided on how to welcome the returning OFWs.

Unheroes welcome?

Having undergone a quarantine in Manila is not an assurance they don’t have the virus, said Imelda town Mayor Roselyn Silva.

A seafarer on his way to the waiting ship hoping to be home soon. (Photo: PJ Tremedal)

“We don’t know what might happen along the way,” the mayor protested during an emergency meeting convened by Gov. Wilter Palma last week.

Silva said she is very careful in welcoming people into the town for fear of spread of coronavirus. The people she referred to this time are the OFWs stranded in Manila because of lockdown.

Saying her town has no enough funds to feed the people in case of total lockdown, the mayor appealed to Palma to have a common quarantine area in the province.

At least two other mayors have expressed the same sentiments.

Mayor Jarvis Acosta of Siay town  said “we are not fully equip” to handle the situation.

“But we are willing to help,” Acosta told the governor. The help he referred to is the sharing of costs in running a quarantine facility for the returning OFWs.

The mayor of Mabuhay town, Dr. Edreluisa Calonge also favored the proposal to have a common quarantine facility.

Several mayors, however, said they would welcome their “own OFWs.”

Mayor Carlnan Climaco said he would welcome to his town the OFWs who are residents of Tungawan.

Mayors Michael Piodena of R.T. Lim, and Leonardo Talania of Titay had also expressed the same.


The governor reminded the mayors of a directive from DILG.

Palma said each local government should take care of its own people.

He assured the mayors of support from the provincial government in the event some returning OFWs will show COVID-19 symptoms.

The provincial government will take charge if some will be positive of coronavirus, he said. (Mindanao Sun)

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