MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine president has ordered about 24,000 workers who have lost their jobs abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic to be transported by land, sea or air to their provincial homes and warned local officials not to refuse them entry.
The workers returned to the country in recent months but had to undergo two weeks of quarantine in hospitals, hotels and makeshift isolation centers in metropolitan Manila in a chaotic situation that delayed their trip home and sparked a myriad of complaints. Some had to wait weeks to be tested for the coronavirus and receive results.
President Rodrigo Duterte said in televised remarks Monday night that some provincial officials have refused entry to returning workers from abroad as a precaution and warned them of possible lawsuits. Authorities have been scrambling to unclog quarantine facilities in the capital with about 300,000 more displaced Filipino workers 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.”
Thousands of workers who have tested negative for the virus began boarding buses, ships and planes back to their provinces on Monday in homecomings that are expected to be completed in a week.