The labor department has formed task groups to help expedite the movement of overseas Filipino workers from various quarantine facilities to their respective home destinations, and facilitate the speedy processing of outbound workers.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III ordered the designation of additional personnel from DOLE’s regional and attached agencies to beef up the manpower requirement of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in ensuring the smooth land and air transport and monitoring of OFWs from various quarantine facilities to their respective home destinations.

The move came following a directive from President Duterte to immediately send home all OFWs who tested negative for COVID-19 conducted by the Philippine Coast Guard and the Red Cross.

About 24,000 OFWs have been kept in government quarantine facilities since their return to the country. Most workers had complained of the slow release of their results and clearances after weeks and even months of quarantine and tests.

In an administrative order, Bello also formed a separate task group to ease the processing of outbound land and sea-based workers whose country of destination has lifted the restrictions on the employment of foreign workers.

“We are doing this so as we don’t lose the jobs for our OFWs, while at the same time we help facilitate the quick homecoming and be of assistance to our returning workers,” Bello said.

He also said that the government did not intend to inconvenience the returning OFWs with their prolonged quarantine and delayed test results. “DOLE and OWWA simply had no control over the testing and issuance of clearances,” he said.

Aside from facilitating the processing of inbound and outbound OFWs, the ‘hatid-probinsya’ and ‘balik-abroad’ task groups will serve as monitoring offices for onsite OFWs and those seeking repatriation.

The task groups are housed in a central command Center manned by the heads of OWWA, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and DOLE’s International Labor Affairs Bureau. The Center will be supervised by former labor secretary Marianito Roque and assisted by three labor undersecretaries.