Investigation sought after alleged priority COVID-19 testing of Chinese workers

May 29, 2020 - 8:31 PM
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Chinese nationals
Chinese workers wear masks at a transportation hub in Paranaque, Metro Manila, Philippines, January 30, 2020. (Reuters/Eloisa Lopez)

Investigations are called for over recent reports of Chinese workers allegedly given priority in targeted testing activities. 

This week, Sen. Risa Hontiveros and local officials in Parañaque City received reports of hundreds of Chinese nationals who underwent testing procedures ahead of Filipinos who should have been tested first, particularly overseas Filipino workers and health workers.  

These incidents came at the same time as authorities were conducting investigations into the illegal health facilities which reportedly were catering to Chinese nationalsuspected with COVID-19.

These individuals were also suspected to be employees of online gambling firms known as Philippine offshore gaming operations (POGO), which recently came under fire over a string of alleged crimes such as kidnapping, money laundering and sex trafficking.  

Pampanga resort

On May 28, Hontiveros denounced the alleged priority treatment given to Chinese workers of a tenant at Fontana Leisure Park in Clark Freeport in Pampanga. 

4 days lang nakuha agad ng mga Chinese workers sa Fontana ang COVID-19 results nila; habang marami sa mga OFWs natin ay…

Posted by Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday, May 27, 2020

 

Based on reports on May 25some OFWs who underwent COVID-19 testing suddenly found Chinese names on a list that supposedly contained results of repatriated OFWs only.  

Philippine Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Joel Garcia explained that these were the 490 Chinese workers who were swab tested on May 21. 

This means that their results came within just four days while thousands of OFWs wait for nearly a month to receive theirs.

READ: ‘Finally free’: Homebound OFWs cheer end to quarantine ordeal

Hontiveros pointed this out on her social accounts.  

“Four days lang nakuha agad ng mga Chinese workers sa Fontana ang COVID-19 results nilahabang marami sa mga OFWs natin ay mahigit isang buwan naka-quarantine dahil wala pa ang sa kanila,” she said 

“Hindi tama ito. Hindi tayo 2nd-class citizens sa sarili nating bansa,” she added.  

The senator then urged government agencies to fix their system and ensure that no VIP treatment is given to Chinese nationals.  

I call on OWWA, PCG, & DOH: ayusin natin ang bottlenecks nang mapabilis ang pagpapauwi ng mga OFWs. Siguraduhin nating walang nakakalusot na VIP treatment,” Hontiveros said.  

“This is not how we welcome OFWs back home. Let’s address these backlogs so that we can send them back to their loved ones,” she added.  

Parañaque City gated village

Facebook user shared photos showing a crowd of POGO employees lining up to be tested for COVID-19 at a club house of BF Homes Federation of Homeowners Association in Barangay BF Homes in Parañaque City.  

ATM: About 500 bused POGO workers are lining up in BF Homes Club House park area waiting to be tested for COVID19…

Posted by Dindo Soriano on Wednesday, May 27, 2020

 

This situation was also recorded by ABS-CBN reporter Doris Bigornia who reported her video recorded on the Thursday episode of “TV Patrol.” 

The report stated that there are between 200 and 300 Chinese POGO workers who underwent COVID-19 testing earlier that day.  

“Katunayan, Bernadette, nadaanan ko lang yan kaninang umaga. At dahil napakarami nilang nakapila sa labaspinakunan narin natin,” the reporter said 

Parañaque Mayor Edwin Olivarez confirmed that the testing activity was indeed carried out at the gated venue and stressed that it was illegal.  

“Nagkakaroon po kami ng proper investigation pa kung bakit pinayagan dun mismo sa ground ng BF. As far as the city’s concern, wala pong permit yon, illegal, pinahinto po natin yun kaagad,” Olivarez was quoted as saying.  

Likewise, Barangay Kagawad Robert Ty criticized the incident.

“It’s rude in the first place, bastos kasi we were not aware of it. It happened right before our noses without even disclosing to us that it’s gonna happen there right in our backyard,” Ty was quoted as saying in the report.  

Parañaque administrator Ding Soriano, meanwhile, said in an interview that such procedures were not sponsored by the city government.  

“We are not spending a single centavo for testing Chinese nationals. Our current mass testing is for our constituents,” he said in an interview.