PNoy orders systematic, scientific evacuation of OFWs from Ebola-hit countries

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014. Filed under: Philippine News
President Benigno S. Aquino III huddles with the heads of delegations for a photo opportunity during the 65th Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific at the foyer stairs of the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Monday (October 13). The Philippines’ hosting of the 65th Session is historically significant considering that after a quarter of a century, another Aquino is addressing the regional committee as President of the Philippines. The meeting will tackle important health issues that include Emergencies and Disasters, Universal Coverage, Antimicrobial Resistance, Tobacco, Mental Health, among others. Also in photo are Health Secretary Enrique Ona, 64th Session of the Regional Committee chairperson Dr. Leao Talalelie Tuitama, WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific regional director Dr. Shin Young-soo and WHO Geneva executive director Dr. Ian Smith. (MNS photo)

President Benigno S. Aquino III huddles with the heads of delegations for a photo opportunity during the 65th Session of the World Health Organization (WHO) Regional Committee for the Western Pacific at the foyer stairs of the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Monday (October 13). The Philippines’ hosting of the 65th Session is historically significant considering that after a quarter of a century, another Aquino is addressing the regional committee as President of the Philippines. The meeting will tackle important health issues that include Emergencies and Disasters, Universal Coverage, Antimicrobial Resistance, Tobacco, Mental Health, among others. Also in photo are Health Secretary Enrique Ona, 64th Session of the Regional Committee chairperson Dr. Leao Talalelie Tuitama, WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific regional director Dr. Shin Young-soo and WHO Geneva executive director Dr. Ian Smith. (MNS photo)

MANILA  (Mabuhay) — President Benigno Aquino III has ordered the “systematic” and “scientific” evacuation of over 1,700 Filipino workers from three Ebola-hit countries in West Africa, a Malacañang official said Tuesday.

At a press briefing, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino directed health, foreign affairs and labor officials during a meeting on Monday to ensure that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone will be repatriated free from the deadly virus.

“Ang pokus ng ating pamahalaan ay ang kalusugan at kaligtasan ng ating mga mamamayan na nandoon mismo sa sentro ng epidemic,” Coloma told reporters.

“Inatas sa mga concerned agencies ng pamahalaan ay paghandaan ang maayos, sistematiko at siyentipikong paglilikas sa ating mga mamamayan para mailayo sila sa panganib ng Ebola virus disease,” he added.

Based on World Health Organization figures, over 4,000 people have already died from Ebola, with 8,399 registered cases in seven countries. Over 1,700 are currently in Ebola-hit West Africa.

On Monday, WHO executive director Ian Smith said the Philippines is “vulnerable” to the threat of the deadly Ebola virus due to its migrant population.

Some 10 million Filipinos are living outside the Philippines, while over 1,700 are currently in Ebola-hit West Africa.

Also on Monday, the Foreign Affairs Department said it may impose voluntary evacuation for OFWs in Ebola-hit countries by mid-November. The Philippines has banned the deployment of Filipinos to Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia due to the Ebola outbreak.

That same day, Aquino said that his administration is prioritizing efforts against the deadly Ebola virus.

Quarantine procedures

At the Palace press briefing, Coloma said quarantine procedures are being put in place in the OFWs’ countries of origin.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) facility in Muntinlupa City is also being readied for OFWs who may need to be quarantined upon arrival in the country before they return to their respective families, the Palace official added.

“Ang importante ay ang pagsasagawa ng quarantine procedures to ensure the screening ng mga Pilipinong naghahanda sa pagbabalik sa ating bansa. Kailangan kasing matiyak na hindi sila carrier. Kailangan malaman kung sila ba ay mayroon o wala noong mga sintomas,” he said.

In addition, Colama said government agencies are mapping ways to evacuate the OFWs without further exposing them to the Ebola virus.

The Bureau of Immigration is also implementing a “detailed screening” in airports of Filipinos coming from West African countries, he added.

“Napakahalaga sa ating pamahalaan na magkaroon tayo ng matatag na depensa laban sa Ebola virus disease,” the communications secretary said. (MNS)

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