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Guimaras is the island province we call home. It’s located in Region 6, Western Visayas, of the Philippines. The DOH, Department of Health in the Philippines, recently scored a terrific blunder. The DOH claimed that an Overseas Filipino Worker, OFW, from Guimaras was the province’s first COVID-19 case.  However, the OFW is in quarantine in Iloilo City. The OFW had been working in Italy. The worker never made it to Guimaras. Therefore, the DOH blunder has prompted today’s headline “Guimaras Still COVID-19 Free despite DOH ‘Stupidity’”

Department of Health’s Amazing “Stupidity”

First of all, I didn’t declare the DOH’s pronouncement as “stupidity.” In fact, Guimaras Vice Governor John Edward Gando did. The Vice Governor said labeling the OFW as Guimaras’ first case “is stupidity at its finest.” Gando made his remark in a Facebook post according to the Daily Guardian.

Frankly, I wholeheartedly concur with the Vice Governor’s remark. The OFW in question didn’t contract the coronavirus in Guimaras. Furthermore, the OWWA-Region 6 dropped the ball in the first place. OWWA is the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. Seven OFWs initially tested positive in the rapid antibody testing. Four were from Iloilo City. One was the afore-mentioned worker from Guimaras.

OFW Never made it Back to Guimaras

The confirmed case, WV patient #72, “is a 27-year-old male, and a resident of Buenavista, Guimaras.” That was according to DOH Health Bulletin No. 37 issued 1 p.m. on May 2, 2020.

The bulletin said the OFW “works as an Overseas Filipino Worker and was repatriated back to Iloilo City last April 29, 2020 via the 2Go Malasakit Voyage. He turned out to be a confirmed positive case of COVID-19 following the RT-PCR testing done last April 29, 2020. Currently, he is in facility quarantine in Iloilo.”

WV No. 72 is one of the 175 repatriated OFWs from Panay Island.

Vice Governor Gando had more to say about the DOH’s bungle. “Very clearly, it is established that WV patient #72, an OFW who was repatriated back to Iloilo City courtesy of OWWA, was infected somewhere else and not in the province of Guimaras,” said the Vice Governor.

“It is also established that the patient has not set foot on the soil of the province from the time he was repatriated back to Iloilo City, again, courtesy of OWWA.”

DOH “Hellbent” on Sticking to Their Story

Gando added that “in spite of such uncontroverted fact, DOH appears to be hellbent in sticking to their position that WV Patient #72 is the first of case of Guimaras and conveniently records it under the province of Guimaras, thus breaking the image of the province as the only COVID-free province in Region 6.”

Gando said they have no problem taking in OFWs as long as protocols are observed.

However, “did OWWA observe the protocol?” he asked.

How prepared are they when they repatriated these OFWs? What’s their commitment?”

New OWWA Director

Consequently, the Daily Guardian also reports that OWWA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac has appointed a new OWWA Director. Rizza Moldes will be the new Region 6 chief.  Sounds like a good move. Maybe OWWA-6 can put someone in charge who actually knows what they’re doing.

The Department of Health has since revised its tally by making a separate database for infected repatriates. However, the DOH already had such a separate database for Central Visayas. Why was the DOH derelict in not doing the same for Western Visayas originally?

Guimaras Governor Gumarin Weighs in

Meanwhile, Guimaras Governor Samuel Gumarin was far more charitable in his remarks concerning the DOH’s gaffe. “Indi nami” (not good) was how he described DOH-6’s move.

“We’re being reported as having a COVID-19 case even if the patient has not set foot on Guimaras,” lamented Gumarin.

The provincial government of Guimaras has kept COVID-19 out of the province for months.

“Will DOH list as COVID cases of Guimaras, too, other Guimarasnons who test positive in other areas of the Philippines?” asked Gumarin.

In a report from the Panay News, Governor Gumarin urged DOH to be more careful.

The governor stated, however, that the province is not avoiding its responsibility for OFWs. The Governor has pledged to take care of all the returning Guimaras OFWs.

Personally, having retired to Guimaras in 2009, I, too, take offense at DOH’s blunder.

Our Governor and Vice Governor have every reason to be upset. While Guimaras is now under a General Community Quarantine, the province is still keeping strict border controls. I hope that the new OWWA Region 6 Director will organize their affairs and get their house in order. The same goes for the Department of Health.

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