Hotels for returning seafarers, OFWs fully booked

Hotels serving as quarantine facilities for seafarers and other overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remain fully booked with over 10,500 returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs) currently billeted in 183 hotels, according to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Guest at the July 2 episode of Marino Filipino TV, OWWA Administrator or Hans Leo Cacdac disclosed that the number of ROFs accommodated in various hotels had risen significantly in recent days due to the prolonged quarantine period required by the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for Managing Emerging Infectious Disease.
“Our hotels are now in critical levels kaya lumalabas uli tayo sa Batangas, Cavite, and Laguna (to look for accommodation),” Administrator Cacdac added.

The OWWA official, however, did not shed light on earlier reports that some hotels were offering only a small number of their rooms to OWWA to serve as quarantine facilities for ROFs because of the agency’s mounting arrears to some hotels that some date back to last year. Some hotels offer some of their rooms only to paying customers.

Some quarters have blamed this failure to settle OWWA’s overdue accounts on partner hotels why the IATF refused to lift the cap for incoming ROFs ostensibly to avoid further overwhelming the hotels.

As a consequence of the travel cap, many seafarers and overseas Filipinos who want to return home are now stranded in various airports abroad. Flights to the Philippines are very few and expensive.

Nevertheless, Administrator Cacdac still sounded upbeat as he broke the welcome development about the fresh funds recently approved by President Duterte to augment the already depleted funds for transportation, food, and hotel accommodation of ROFs.

He informed, “Good news, about two or three weeks ago, President Duterte approved P5.2 billion. P9.8 billion ang hinihingi namin, P5.2 ang ibinigay.

We expect there will additional (funds) soon, we’re thankful this will help us last until September.”

He hastened to add that the Labor department would again request additional funding, but this not necessarily the balance of the P9.8 billion earlier requested by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

OWWA chief explained that the P9.8 billion request was based on the computation when the required quarantine period was only seven to nine days; now it’s 10 days. “There are some like those seafarers coming from UAE (United Arab Emirates), which is a restricted country, they have to be quarantined for the entire 14 days.

Still, during the Marino Filipino TV program, Administrator Cacdac also responded to numerous complaints on why some OFWs were booked at five-star hotels while others were assigned to two- or three-star hotels with budgets of about 2,500 and 1,500 per night, respectively.

Furthermore, still on hotel accommodation, he explained: “Kung ililimit lang sa two- or three-stars, kulang, kakapusin. On the other hand, kung ililimit lang sa five-star (hotels), kakapusin din; so we have to go the whole range.

“(But) Random ang matching; marami ang nagrereklamo they were not placed in five stars, but we could not do anything, random ang assignments. What we can assure them, these are DOT (Department of Tourism)- accredited, so they meet the DOT standard.”

“If OFWs have complaints, we will just have to talk to DOT. That’s what we can do now,” Administrator Cacdac elaborated.

He nonetheless recognized that booking ROFs in five=start hotels has some advantages. “Hindi mo na aalalahanin yung food, accommodation ng OFWs and if there’s a swab test, the big hotels have facilities where social distancing can be observed.”

Lastly, he said, big hotels are members of the Philippine Hotel Owners Association. “So it’s easy to talk with them and coordinate with them if there were complaints, unlike those small hotels, it’s difficult. They don’t have their association; you have to talk to them one by one if there were complaints on food, accommodation, and others.” – CIH

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