About 4,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were repatriated in the country have been stranded in Metro Manila following the payment fiasco between the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) and the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Tuesday said it now takes longer for OFWs to travel back to their hometowns after the PRC refused to accept the COVID-19 swab tests charged to the PhilHealth.
“You can just imagine how many OFWs are now stranded in all the hotels in Metro Manila. ‘Yun ang problema namin,” Bello said.
From sending 3000 OFWs daily, the number has been cut down to 300 in the past week. Bello said over 100,000 OFWs are still expected to return home within the year.
“They are staying longer, when before they could stay only as long as three to four days. Now, they’re staying already beyond one week and that’s our problem in terms of expenses and in terms of taking care of our OFWs,” he added.
Bello said their department is currently looking for more hotels that can be used as temporary quarantine facilities while the OFWs who are waiting for their swab tests and results.
Just last week, the Philippine Red Cross, chaired by Sen. Richard Gordon, stopped conducting 2019 Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) tests due to the Php 930.99 million debt accumulated by PhilHealth.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said that the decision of the Philippine Red Cross could hamper the testing efforts since the organization accounts for one-fourth of the testing capacity in the country.
However, on Monday, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte vowed that the national government will pay the debts of PhilHealth to the PRC
“Do not worry. We will pay. It will take time but we will pay. We’ll look for the money. Hindi naman marami but ang priorities natin dito is really medical at treatment, medical attention,” the Chief Executive said.