Malacañang announced Thursday that over 16,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whose Covid-19 test results took over a month to release have been sent home, three days since President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the speeding up of the quarantine process for repatriated workers.

The figure stood at 66 percent of the total 24,000, with four days remaining until Duterte’s one-week deadline.

On May 26, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said he would go after local government units who would close their borders to returning OFWs, as doing so was against the Bayanihan special powers law.

“Lahat ng 16,000 na pinauwi ay negatibo po sila sa Covid-19 base sa PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests,” Palace spokesman Harry Roque said in a Malacañang press briefing.

Three flights to Davao City, Dumaguete City and Puerto Princesa City and approximately 100 buses to Northern and Southern Luzon were scheduled to transport the OFWs, he said.

Roque also reported that 1,200 workers were in outbound ships to Cebu City, Dumaguete City, Iligan and Zamboanga.

The Philippine government requires all returning OFWs to undergo mandatory testing and quarantine to prevent the further spread of Covid-19.

The government also aims to boost testing capabilities in provinces, so the repatriated workers can go home directly to their hometowns, without undergoing quarantine in Metro Manila. John Ezekiel J. Hirro