Duterte to LGUs: Let OFWs in, only nat’l gov’t can impose travel restrictions
MANILA, Philippines — Only the national government can impose travel restrictions, President Rodrigo Duterte reminded local governments Monday as he ordered them to accept overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returning to their homes.
Duterte warned that local officials may be criminally charged should they limit the movement of the public.
“Nobody but nobody and only the national government can impose restrictions on travel. It’s the only agency that can declare that there’s an emergency of national interest, and that power of declaration is not shared by anybody, it’s the national government,” Duterte said in a public address.
“It is the constitutional right of people to travel and go home. Do not impede it, do not obstruct the movement of people because you run the risk of getting sued criminally,” he added.
While he recognized that this was how some local officials protect their respective jurisdictions from the virus, Duterte said it is “cruel” for them to deny entry to the OFWs.
“In their desire to protect their respective turf, territories, I can say that if that is the way they would handle it like somebody who is really a chieftain of a city or a province during a pandemic time, okay yan,” Duterte said.
“Pero alam mo, hindi naman lahat talaga nagkasakit. And it is very cruel actually to deny them to go home. Nandito yan sila sa hotel because they cannot go home— first,because of lack of money and resources,” he added.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año assured the President during the televised meeting that all 24,000 OFWs in quarantine facilities tested negative for the coronavirus.
Duterte has ordered government agencies tobring home OFWsstuck in quarantine facilities within a week.
The directive came after a number of repatriated OFWs reportedly complained of enduring a longer stay in the quarantine facilities beyond the mandatory 14-day isolation period due to the delay in their COVID-19 test results.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said they are eyeing to send the 24,000 OFWs home to their provinces within the next three days.