President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered government agencies to accelerate the Covid-19 test results of 24,000 quarantined overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who underwent mandatory testing, and said OFWs should be sent home in one week.

Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte gave the Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Health the one-week deadline to send home some 24,000 by air, sea or land, as some have been stuck in quarantine facilities for over a month.

Duterte also took note of the need for provinces to have stronger polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing capabilities, so OFWs could be sent directly to their provinces for Covid-19 testing and self-quarantine, instead of waiting for their test results in hotels or vessels in Metro Manila, according to Roque.

“So iyan po ang ipinag-utos din ng presidente, palawakin pa ang PCR testing capacity ng mga probinsya para nga hindi na natetengga dito sa Metro Manila ang mga taga-probinsya, makauwi na at doon na mag-quarantine at doon na mag-PCR testing,” Roque said in a DZBB interview.

The government expects 150,000 to 500,000 repatriated workers to return to the country by the end of the year, according to Roque.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in a Teleradyo interview said the department was aiming to bring home at least 8,000 OFWs per day.

“Nag-mobilize na po si [Transport] Secretary [Arthur] Tugade ng mga bus. Lahat ng mga airports ngayon ay bukas, at magkakaroon ng flights from Manila to Cebu, to Iloilo, Bacolod, GenSan, Cagayan de Oro, Davao City, including Zamboanga City para makauwi na po yung ating mga OFWs,” he added.

On May 22, National Task Force Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said the government was expecting 150,000 to 500,000 OFWs to return to the country by the end of the year, which could lead to a second wave of Covid-19 infections. John Ezekiel J. Hirro