Being in a mandatory quarantine for 14 long days can take a toll on anyone’s mental health, especially when one is left disconnected from family and friends.
With this, PLDT wireless unit Smart Communications, Inc. has partnered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) - 11 and Davao City Tourism Operations Office (DCTOO) to provide repatriated Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) passengers with free SIM cards to enable them to communicate with their loved ones while in isolation for two weeks.
As part of the City Government of Davao’s policies and quarantine protocols, repatriated passengers shall undergo a “bubble” arrival process from the airport to the isolation hotels. Upon arrival at the Davao International Airport, the OFW is given an arrival kit by OWWA which includes a SIM pack.
Smart Customer Development Manager Margaret Alacrito said the Smart SIMs are already packaged in the arrival kit of OWWA. “This is a unique program for Davao City and among the many forms of assistance that Smart provides for the community during this pandemic,” she said.
As of August 10, 2021, Smart has provided 1,600 OFWs with free SIMs since the program started late June this year. “Based on our surveys, one of the needs of returning Overseas Filipinos in the city are load retailers to communicate with their loved ones. To address this, Smart is also enabling the hotels housing the OFWs to become authorized SIM and load retailers as well,” Alacrito added.
DCTOO and Airport Monitoring Head Generose Tecson said that as of July 9, 2021, a total of 20 hotel establishments have been prepared and inspected by the Department of Tourism as quarantine hotels.
Presently, Smart has existing partnerships with Red Planet, Waterfront Insular Hotel Davao, Lanang Suites, Dusit Thani Davao, and Park Inn Radisson Davao.
“Most of these OFWs have expired contracts and/or the companies they are working for have shut down operations due to the pandemic. That is why when the City Tourism tapped us to assist, we immediately said yes,” said Hazel Nabatar, Area Development Manager of Smart.
Tecson, for her part, said that the city government is grateful for the continued partnership they have established with Smart. “Ever since, Smart has always made an effort to partner with City Tourism, especially at the start of the pandemic. With the arrival of repatriates, Smart has again offered to help our OFWs who have been away for so long and will be quarantined before they can go home, and for whom communication with their loved ones mean so much.”
At present, Smart and OWWA-11 are brewing more programs and partnerships to further assist the returning OFW community.
“Smart has always been instrumental in realizing our various programs to be of service to our kababayans. Communication in these trying times is very important. This partnership we have is proof that the government and private sector can work together to achieve one common goal. We hope to do more partnerships together as we move forward,” Carmelo T. Elaya, OWWA 11 Chief for Programs and Services Division, said.