MANILA – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Friday quarantine ships for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) follow strict social distancing and health protocols.
In response to viral posts claiming the lack of necessary safety and health protocols on the ships, the DOTr, in a Facebook post, said the ships’ room and bed arrangements were mostly built-in but have been augmented to ensure that occupants would be able to complete their 14-day quarantine in a safe and secure environment.
“The vessel has a 1,200-passenger capacity, but in order to ensure the observance of strict protocols on social distancing, we are only accommodating at most 400 persons,” the department said.
The viral posts, which have since been taken down, claimed occupants of the ships were made to sleep in bunk beds near other individuals and noted the lack of mattresses in most beds.
The DOTr said the lack of mattresses was deliberately done as a physical distancing measure.
“In a four-bunk bed configuration, only one bed will be utilized. (DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade) also directed maritime officials to coordinate with the shipowner to explore the possibility of removing the beds that are not in use,” it said.
On complaints of fees being charged to occupants of the ship, it said there was an optional PHP180 fee for three meals daily to be shouldered by the manning and recruitment agencies of OFWs, while ship occupants are also allowed to purchase their own food at a mini-mart located inside the vessel.
On complaints of cockroaches in certain areas of the ships, it said personnel from 2Go, the company that volunteered the ships for use as floating quarantine facilities, have been notified and they ensured that they would sanitize the affected areas.
“We again apologize for any shortcoming, and we will see to it that we take the necessary remedial action, as we both endure and acknowledge our sacrifices amid the difficulty of our situation,” the DOTr said.
It clarified that while all OFWs are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine, manning and recruitment agencies were responsible for the arrangement of accommodations and other necessities of its clients during the period, with most staying at facilities paid for by the companies.
“(The) OFWs, upon arrival, will board a bus to be escorted by the PCG or the PNP going to their arranged accommodation. If no accommodation was arranged for them prior to landing, that is the time that they will be brought to Pier 15,” the DOTr said.
As of Thursday, the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said 148 OFWs and seafarers were undergoing quarantine at the two quarantine ships berthed at Pier 15 in South Harbor, Manila.
The PCG said 75 security personnel and 25 nurses were deployed to provide the ships’ occupants with medical assistance, food, and other necessities. Raymond Carl Dela Cruz /PNA – northboundasia.com