By Miguel Verzosa
SAN FRANCISCO – Overseas Filipinos in North America appealed to Philippine government as they supported the call of Senator Panfilo for the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Diseases (IATF) to review quarantine protocols especially those affecting inbound travelers to the Philippines, notably United States and Canada, even as the country is slowly opening up its economy.
“We agree with Senator Panfilo Lacson’s observation that the length of hotel quarantine be thoroughly reviewed and must go back to the 48-hour quarantine instead of spending seven to days in hotel for quarantine despite already being fully vaccinated,” said Access Care Services CEO Bing Zabala in reaction to a statement made by Lacson.

In a recent statement, Lacson said, “We can accelerate our much-needed economic recovery if some of our health protocols – such as a hotel quarantine requirement lasting at least seven days to 10 days – are revisited and made more responsive and sensible.”

According to the latest Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF) Resolution (No. 123-C, 28 June 2021)  “arriving individuals fully vaccinated in the Philippines regardless of travel history, and those vaccinated abroad who stayed exclusively in “Green” countries/jurisdictions in the past fourteen days immediately preceding arrival, shall be required to undergo a seven (7) –day facility-based quarantine upon arrival, with the date of arrival being the first day.” Green countries refer to low coronavirus risk countries.

A person is considered as fully vaccinated against COVID-19 two weeks after receiving the second dose in a two-dose series; or more than or two weeks after receiving a single dose vaccine. 

 “The shortened or prolonged quarantine requirement is equally burdensome to returning overseas Filipinos. More so to overseas Filipino workers who are only coming home for a vacation and spend time with their families,” said Lacson. He added: “It is also a drain on the overseas Filipinos’ resources as they have to spend a sizeable amount for the quarantine facilities—hotels accredited by the government.”

Lacson also pointed out the effect of the requirement to permanent residents who own businesses in the country. “They may opt not to return here until the requirement is lifted. It’s about time to to put in place a vaccine passport system here and those coming from overseas,” he said.

 “A delay in the return of any businessman to the country could hamper the economic recovery,”  1Heart Franchise Vice President Randolf Neil Clarito said. 

 “Regardless whether his business is categorized as small or medium, the government must encourage the entrepreneurs to come back,” he added.  Clarito is a noted Filipino-American based in Tarzana, California engaged in the franchising of caregiving services to interested Filipino entrepreneurs. 

 “These businesses provide job opportunities to Filipinos who are eager to go back to work after months of unemployment due to the pandemic,” he further said. 

 According to the Philippine Statistics Authority’s May 2021 Labor Force Survey, the country’s unemployment rate in May 2021 was estimated at 7.7 percent. Employment rate was placed at 92.3 percent.

 In the survey, the services sector continued to account for the largest share with 57.8 percent of the total employed persons in May 2021. It also listed the top five sub-sectors with the highest number of employed persons:  wholesale and retail, repair of motor and motorcycles; agriculture and forestry; construction; manufacturing; and transportation and storage. 

 The United States and Canada are among the top countries with the highest number of overseas Filipinos but are not however included among the green countries by IATF.

 The “green countries” include Albania, American Samoa, Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Benin, Belize, The British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cayman Islands, Chad, China, Cote d’ Ivoire (Ivory Coast), Eswatini, Falkland Islands, French Polynesia, Gambia, Ghana, Greenland, Grenada, Hong Kong, Iceland, Isle of Man, Israel, Laos, Liberia, Malawi, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Micronesia, Montserrat, Morocco, Mozambique, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Rwanda, Saba, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Singapore, Sint Eustatius, South Korea, Taiwan, Togo, Turks and Caicos Islands (UK), Vietnam, and Zimbabwe. 

 The quarantine period for inbound international travelers has been reduced to seven days from the previously mandated 14 days—10 days in a quarantine facility and four days in the local government unit of destination—under the Omnibus Guidelines on the Implementation of Community Quarantine in the Philippines