ILOILO CITY –– President Duterte may have been given wrong information on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) coming home to Iloilo, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas and the regional inter-agency task force on COVID-19 said.
In a televised public address on late Monday evening, the President cited the urgency to bring home the OFWs and warned local government units who refused to do so due to quarantine measures.
The President singled out Iloilo and Treñas.
“I heard also, I’m sure sa City of Iloilo, hindi ninyo tinanggap ‘yung mga (you did not accept the) OFW. Sir, Mayor, nakikiusap ako sa inyo na sundin lang ninyo ‘yung (I am appealing to you to just follow the) guidelines,” the President said.
“I will operate through the (Department of Interior and Local Government) kasi it’s either sumunod kayo (because it’s either you comply) or I will impose it on you. Sumunod kayo sa magandang paraan o pipilitin ko na sumunod kayo (Comply or I will force you) which is actually… You know, I do not want to embarrass people,” he added.
But Treñas pointed out that the city government has not rejected special trips carrying OFWs because he also wants to bring them home.
“What we are trying to do is to make sure that the protocols are followed and that all these are properly coordinated,” he said.
Treñas had earlier raised complaints after three OFWs from Western Visayas, who were transported from Cebu to Iloilo last month, tested positive for COVID-19.
Five more OFWs who arrived from Manila last week also tested positive.
They were among the 199 OFWs from Iloilo and Guimaras who have been quarantined in a hotel in Iloilo City.
Under protocols of the National Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19, only OFWs who have undergone tests, quarantined, and negative of the disease should be allowed to board vessels that would bring them home.
The Western Visayas Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 also raised surprise on the President’s statement about Iloilo.
“We don’t how what information and how it reached the President. But it is not correct that Iloilo City is refusing to allow OFWs to come home,” lawyer Roy Villa, the task force’s spokesperson told the INQUIRER.
He said it was the decision of the task force to suspend special trips of OFWs going to Western Visayas due to several OFWs, who were cleared in Manila and Cebu for their trip, but turned out to be positive for COVID-19.
“We will lift the suspension if safety is assured,” he said.
Many Ilonggos also took to social media to refute the President’s statement and defend Treñas.