DFA, DOLE to bring home more distressed OFWs
QUEZON CITY June 30 (PIA) – The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment is committed to bringing home more overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic despite a number of challenges that they need to hurdle in order to serve the distressed workers.
During the hybrid House of Representative Briefing on the Whole Government Approach in its Migration Policy Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic held on 26 June 2020, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, OWWA briefed representatives on the challenges faced in bringing home distressed OFWs but also gave assurance of their commitment to serve the OFWS.
Among the challenges faced were the lockdowns imposed in the host countries, limitations in the flights allowed as well as POLO offices and consulates closed due to personnel having been infected with COVID-19. Despite this however, Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said they are ready to bring home as many OFWs as soon as possible.
“We are planning to bring home, around 37,660 OFWs in the next 3 to 4 weeks,” Arriola said following the assurance from Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Deputy Director-General for Operations Capt. Donald Mendoza to increase the number of days for receiving the chartered flights from Saudi Arabia, and the allowable number of passengers, from 1,000 to 2,000 per day.
Arriola said that the DFA has brought home more than 56, 280 OFWs and 6,342 of them came from Saudi Arabia.
“As of now, we have brought home more than 56, 280 OFWs, 31,031 are sea-based, they are the ones stranded in cruise ships. For land-based, it’s 25,259,” USec Arriola said.
In June 27, the DFA reported bringing home an additional 7,928 Overseas Filipinos (OFs), bringing the total number of OFs repatriated since the Wuhan flight in February to 59,041.
Secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Silvestre Bello III who was also present in the same briefing said apart from the lockdowns, other factors that impacts the repatriation are the legal impediments tied to the exit visas, loans and cases of OFWs who want to go home.
He said he also welcomes the assurance from CAAP he welcomed the assurance to allow more airlines to fly for OFW repatriation even as he assured that the department’s various programs and other measures will be in placed to help the arriving OFWs,
“With CAAP’s permission, we can now bring home more OFWs so they can find refuge in their own country and be reunited with their families,” Bello said.
Sec. Bello explained that the Department has established a system to locate and track OFWs so that even before they signify their intentions to go home, the department is already starting the preparations for them, such as “We now have systems to locate and track OFWs so that while they signify their intention of flying home, preparations for them are already being made such as testing, hotel accommodation, and transport service to their places of origin,” Bello said.
The Secretary is referring to DOLE’s OFW Assistance Information System (OASIS) which is an online platform developed to facilitate better service delivery to OFWs. The OFWs are encouraged to register so that the government will be able to respond to their concerns and provide appropriate services in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, Sec Bello on Sunday said he is hoping to fly home the remains of 301 dead OFWs before the deadline set by the Saudi government for their repatriation. (PIA-IDPD/VQR).