Welcome home, balikbayans!
As about 24,000 Filipinos who lost their jobs abroad are being transported by land, sea or air to their provincial homes, President Rodrigo Duterte warned local officials not to refuse them entry out of coronavirus fears.
The workers returned to the country in recent months as jobs dried up worldwide due to the pandemic. They were quarantined for two weeks in hospitals, hotels and makeshift isolation centers in metropolitan Manila in a chaotic situation that delayed their trips home. Many had to wait for weeks for their coronavirus test results. All those being released and transported home have tested negative.
Duterte said in televised remarks Monday night that some provincial officials have refused entry to returning workers from abroad and warned them of possible lawsuits. Authorities have been scrambling to decongest the quarantine facilities in the capital since about 300,000 more displaced Filipino workers are slated to come home soon.
“I’m ordering you to accept them, open the gates of your territories,” Duterte said. “Do not impede it. Do not obstruct the movement of people because you run the risk of getting sued criminally.”
The thousands of workers began boarding buses, ships and planes back to their provinces on Monday in homecomings that are expected to be completed in a week.