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IATF should review airport arrival procedures, according to seafarer organizations

Several seafarer organizations have asked the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to rethink its policy on returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) and overseas Filipino laborers (OFWs).

This came as they voiced their support for the Cebu province government’s swab-on-arrival policy for ROFs and OFWs.

In a letter to the IATF-EID, chaired by Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III and released to the media on Wednesday, the Integrated Seafarers of the Philippines (ISP), Mariners’ and Allied Transport Employees Union (MATEU), Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers (SONAME), and ANGKLA Partylist formally expressed their call.

The groups β€” led by former Rep. Jesulito Manalo of the ANGKLA Partylist, Vice Chairman Capt. Ronaldo Enrile of the ISP, ISP president Capt. Gaudencio Morales of MATEU, Lawyer Manuel Collado of SONAME, and SONAME president Engr. Samuel Lim of SONAME β€” have asked for the adoption of Governor Gwendolyn Garcia’s Executive Order No. 17 Series of 2021, which

Cebu’s swab policy, they said, is “more realistic and sensitive to the demands of the times.”

Garcia’s directive requires all OFWs and ROFs coming in Cebu from other countries to be tested for coronavirus disease (Covid-19) upon arrival at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

OFWs and ROFs are only allowed to remain in approved hotels for two to three days while waiting for the findings.

If they test negative, they are allowed to return to their homes and complete their quarantine. A swab test would be performed again on the seventh day, as per the IATF instruction.

On the other hand, current national regulation requires a 10-day quarantine and swabbing on the seventh day after arrival.

Garcia’s directive was subsequently codified as Provincial Ordinance No. 2021-04, which became a local law.

The organizations also said that the Cebu policy relieves the onerous responsibilities faced by returning sailors, who account for 25% of the worldwide maritime workforce and are classified as vital employees by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

β€œOur returning sailors had already spent a significant amount of time at sea, even after their work contracts had expired. This is owing to a lack of capacity for transferring people from their ships to their home nations, according to the organizations.

They pointed out that requiring them to endure a 10-day facility-based quarantine upon arrival β€œplaces them in a more difficult position than when they are promptly tested upon arrival, enabling them to quickly return home to their families upon a negative result.”

They claimed that Cebu’s swab and quarantine policies are “more in line with accepted procedures followed by health organizations across the globe.”

They also supported the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu Chapter’s demand to adopt Garcia’s swab policy to “reconcile and unify the policies, rules, regulations, and processes as respects incoming OFWs and ROFs.”

“Before being transferred to the Philippines, our returning sailors must pass stringent examinations in their home nations. While aboard the boats, they are carefully watched and their body temperatures are taken every day. While at ports, proper health procedures are rigorously followed and followed to avoid the spread of the deadly Covid-19 virus “In their letter, the organizations said.

They claim that the IATF guidelines impose undue restrictions and prejudice on returning sailors.

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