MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has repatriated 405,769 distressed overseas Filipinos (OFs) since February 2020, an official said Friday.
In a virtual presser, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said of the figure, 105,606 were sea-based OFs, while 300,163 were land-based.
Arriola, however, said they have to comply with travel restrictions imposed by the government of some countries due to the threat posed by the Delta variant of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“For UAE (United Arab Emirates) since June, we repatriated through our chartered flights 2,069 stranded Filipinos already in the UAE and 351 repatriates from Oman. Today (July 30), there is one flight that’s leaving UAE and we have scheduled six flights also that are leaving this coming August and we have two flights also for Oman,” she said.
Meanwhile, Arriola asked for understanding from the OFs and their families, explaining that the DFA needs to submit to the conditions required by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) regarding repatriation efforts.
“We understand there are thousands of people who are stranded all over the world and we are doing our best to bring everyone home. It’s just that hindi namin kayang sabay-sabay (we cannot bring everyone home at the same time),” she said.
Arriola also noted that the number of repatriations per day is subject to the availability of quarantine facilities in the country.
“We continually meet with our counterparts to be able to increase the absorptive capacity, but of course, now, we are not only receiving people in Manila. Davao had opened up also and also Cebu had opened up,” she added.
Laoag City opened facilities to host the repatriated workers but they had to close down to follow restrictions.
Apart from the DFA, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and local manning agencies have repatriation flights.
Arriola clarified that DFA’s mandate usually covers those who are irregular and undocumented workers, as well as those in emergency situations.
“(We have) lesser repatriation flights in Saudi Arabia, because DOLE is already doing that. So, we coordinated also with our partner agencies to be able to have a balance. In UAE, many of our repatriates, some of them are not regular workers, some of them are undocumented, and some are really tourists,” she said.
The DFA aims to bring home 4,610 Filipinos stranded worldwide in August. (PNA)