Allow 167k stranded OFWs to come home, gov’t told
MANILA, Philippines — An administration lawmaker on Saturday called on the government to allow the return of more than 167,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded abroad since March, when the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was declared a pandemic.
Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, chair of the House committee on public accounts, appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) to arrange flights to bring home the displaced OFWs.
“Our modern-day heroes have been stuck in their host countries since the coronavirus outbreak three months ago. We should bring them home as soon as possible,” he said in a statement.
“The [OFWs] are now low on funds, if they still have money. They rely on aid from our government and their host countries for food,” Defensor added.
No breakdown of the 167,000 OFWs was given by the committee.
Defensor issued the call after leading Friday’s committee hearing, which sought to look into problems plaguing the return of displaced and distressed OFWs.
According to the lawmaker, House leaders have agreed to appeal to the IATF and the concerned agencies to lift restrictions on repatriation flights, as well as to arrange for additional transportation for the stranded OFWs.
During the hearing, lawmakers clarified from IATF and Caap officials reports that they have set a cap of 1,000 persons on the number of OFWs and other overseas Filipinos that could be flown home.
The limit was imposed supposedly after about 24,000 returnees were stranded in Metro Manila three weeks ago.
“Now that the 24,000 have been transported to the provinces upon orders from President Duterte, it’s time for the IATF and the Caap to scrap their repatriation limit to allow for more workers to finally be flown home, Defensor said.
Priority will be given to OFWs who have purchased plane tickets on their own, or with the help of their employers and the government.
“There are thousands of them in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar,” he said.
However, these OFWs have not been allowed to board commercial flights due to the IATF prohibition, the lawmaker said.
“With go signal from the IATF and Caap for their flights, these workers can already be home in days,” Defensor said.
The Inquirer Foundation supports our healthcare frontliners and is still accepting cash donations to be deposited at Banco de Oro (BDO) current account #007960018860 or donate through PayMaya using this link .
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.