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36K OFWs repatriated amid health crisis

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The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already repatriated 36,731 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as of June 7, as part of the government efforts to assist and bring home distressed and affected Filipinos abroad due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.

During the Laging Handa briefing aired over state-run PTV4 on Monday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said that of this number, 22,198 are sea-based workers while 14,533 are land-based.

Aside from this figure, around 30,000 to 35,000 more sea-based workers, mostly working in cruise ships, need to come home.

Kina-calibrate natin yung pag uwi nila, sa land-based paiba iba sila especially now that some of the economies are opening up like Dubai. Yung iba pag nakahanap sila ng trabaho hindi na rin sila bumabalik. But definitely since cruise ship stopped operating last March, merong 30,000 to 35,000 na sea-based workers na pauwi na talaga sa bansa, (We are calibrating their repatriation. It’s different for land-based since more countries are opening up like Dubai. But since the cruise ship stopped operating last March, there are around 30,000 to 35,000 sea-based workers going home)” Arriola said.

Covid-19 casualties

DFA data, meanwhile, showed that more than 5,000 OFWs were confirmed positive of the coronavirus disease.

Medyo nalulungkot kami, we have 5,392 confirmed cases all over the world. Majority ng ating mga kababayan na na-infect ay nasa Middle East. 2,791 ang sumailalim na ng gamutan at 2,231 ang naka recover. Unfortunately, 370 na ang pumanaw (We are sad that we have 5,392 confirmed cases all over the world. Majority or our OFWs who got infected are those in the Middle East. Some 2,791 underwent medication and 2,231 have already recovered)”.

Families of these OFW’s must coordinate with the DFA for the shipment of the remains, or for their cremation.

Lahat ng kanilang mga kamag-anak ay kailangang makipag-ugnayan lang po sa Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs para po sa shipment ng kanilang remains. Meron naming pagkakataon na sa mga lugar na pwede ang cremation at sinelect na ng kanilang pamilya na i-cremate ang katawan ng kanilang mahal sa buhay (all their relatives must coordinate with the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs for the shipment of their remains. There are also instances that we cremate the bodies if the family consents and the host country allows),” she said.

Arriola reminded OFWs to be informed and always follow the laws and regulations of the country they are in.

The Philippines has 94 embassies and consulate generals in different countries worldwide which OFWs may contact for assistance.

Kailangan talaga na sumunod sa ibang bansa, malaki talaga ang fine. Pag sinabing lockdown, bawal po talaga ang lumabas at makukulong din po sila. Makinig po tayo sa sinasabi ng gobyerno kung saan andun tayo at makipag-ugnayan tayo sa mga embahada at consulate general ng Pilipinas kung saan andun tayo (They really have to follow the law of their host countries or else they will face fines. When the country imposes lockdown, they cannot go out, because they could be put to jail. Listen to what the government of the host country says and coordinate with the embassies and consulate generals of the Philippines in that country,” she added.

DFA’s continued assistance for all OFWs

Arriola assures OFWs that the government will continue to extend whatever assistance they need, be it legal or otherwise, whether they are documented or undocumented.

Lahat ng ating mga kababayan, documented or undocumented, hindi tayo namimili pwede po silang umuwi, humingi ng libreng pasahe sa ating embahada or consulate-general. Pagdating dito sa Pilipinas, ipinapasa na natin sila sa DOH at sa OWWA. So ang major responsibility of the DFA is the repatriation of our OFWs and overseas Filipinos (All Filipinos, documented or undocumented, may go home and ask for free flights from our embassies and consulates. As soon as they arrive here, we turn them over to DOH and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration. DFA’s major responsibility is the repatriation of our OFWs and overseas Filipinos),” Arriola said.

All embassies and consulate generals of the Philippines in other countries, she said, are open 24/7 to assist Filipino nationals.

Consulates may be reached via their Facebook pages and hotlines, or contact the DFA via its official Facebook page “OFW Help” or through hotlines, 09064421825 and 09083442070, which are open 24/7.

Those who return home and are unable to go back to their host countries may avail of the government’s reintegration programs through OWWA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to help them recover and restart their lives in the Philippines.

Arriola, meanwhile, asked for patience from those awaiting their repatriation as there are protocols to be followed and flights are limited.

Merong tayong mga limitations na 1,200 OFWs a day para sa NAIA, at sa Clark, 600 OFWs a day na twice a week lang. Ang sinisigurado natin walang lalapit sa pamahalaan ng Pilipinas na gustong umuwi na hindii makakauwi. Konting pasensya lang po pero tuloy-tuloy po ang pagpapauwi natin at ang repatriation, kailangan lang lapitan ang embahada and konsulado at ang DFA dito sa Pilipinas (We have limitations of 1,200 OFWs per day for NAIA and 600 for Clark, with flights only twice a week. We assure everyone that no Filipino who wants to go home and asks help from the government will be unattended. We have continuous repatriation program and we only ask for your patience),” Arriola said. (Marita Moaje, PNA)

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