President Rodrigo Duterte reminded Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez to respect the right of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who wanted to go back to Ormoc City after being stranded in Metro Manila for weeks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his televised speech on May 28, the chief executive said that he understood the reaction of Gomez, who’s also his political ally.
Still, the latter should also remember that the OFWs have the constitutional right to travel back home.
“I do not have a quarrel with Richard Gomez. He was the one who said that he’s not going to accept anybody from entering, or for that matter, leaving the place,” the President said, reacting to the Mayor’s criticism over the Balik Probinsiya program of the government.
“Okay man lang ‘yan. It’s part of maybe the vigilance that a person nurtures in his heart of how to do it. But you know there are also constitutional issues involved and those are sacred ones,” he added.
According to Duterte, there’s no reason for Gomez “not to accept” the OFWs proven free from COVID-19 and reiterated that the national government is ready to shoulder the medical expenses of the positive Balik Probinsiya beneficiaries.
“And for those who are not really pronounced to be infected positive, there’s no reason why you should not accept them especially those who are returning to their homes from doing work abroad,” he said.
“Kawawa naman kasi. So ‘yung constitutional right, there’s no — there’s no really a reason why you should not accept them with open arms. I think this has been understood by everybody. And — unless, well for one, if you are positive, you can stay with the place where government has to provide for the hospitalization,” he added.
Duterte then also urged the other Mayors, to help everybody.
“That is really an order of the national government to the local governments. Help, do not deny, and you must expedite the hospitalization until he is cured. No problem about payment. I will pay. Just bill me and I will pay,” he stated.
A few days ago, Mayor Gomez slammed different agencies of the national government for allegedly ordering them to disregard health protocols for the people returning to Ormic via Balik Probinsiya Program.
“DILG, NHA, OWWA, what happened to all the protocols that you guys are trying to formulate for returning residents?!!!” Gomez wrote.
“I just would like to share what is happening right now about this Balik Probinsya program. This morning the DILG regional office and OWWA texted, “texted”, us informing us that there are 3 planes arriving in Tacloban and telling us to receive them without following COVID protocols, undocumented and untested,” he added.
Gomez said that they’re working hard to maintain Ormoc City COVID-19 free “for 70 days” only to be told to accept repatriates without any conditions.
“What happened to all the protocols that we’ve been working on? What happened their protocols that they have been telling us to do if they themselves are not doing the right thing?!” he said.
The Mayor also denied that he doesn’t want to accept the returning OFWs, saying that he only wanted coordination from the national government so they could prepare the right amount of medical team and vehicle to accommodate the repatriates.
“Kailangan namin malaman Sana in advance para tama yung laki ng sasakyan na magsusundo, may mga medical team na nakahanda etc. Hindi kasi yung ofws lang ang naguuwian, may balik probinsya program din, at may mga biglang nasa border na na gusto rin pumasok,” he said.