124,000 Filipinos stranded abroad now home in their provinces
MANILA, Philippines — Nearly 124,000 Filipinos stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic have returned to their home provinces, with about half of them relying on government for assistance, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said on Wednesday.
Lorenzana, who chairs the National Task Force against COVID-19, reported to President Duterte that 78,895 were Filipinos repatriated after losing their jobs abroad, while 48,099 were returning overseas Filipinos.
In a text message to the Inquirer, Lorenzana said the returning overseas Filipinos shouldered their expenses, while the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration paid for their airfare, their COVID-19 test, hotel accommodations for quarantine while awaiting their test results, and transport to their home provinces.
Although there was no longer any backlog on the number of repatriated Filipinos returning to their provinces, Lorenzana said the Malaysian government “wished to return” over 5,000 Filipinos from Sabah.
The Philippines “had not been informed, nor did it ask” why the Malaysian government wished to return the Sabah-based Filipinos to the country, Lorenzana said. “But they are Pinoys so we will welcome them back,” he added.
Lorenzana said 900 of the 5000 Filipinos arrived over the weekend and were ferried to their home provinces, including Tawi-Tawi, Basilan and Zamboanga.
“Our ship will be going to Sabah every two weeks to fetch these Filipinos … We have spoken to the local governments to accept them because they are already COVID-19-free. Before they left Malaysia, they were tested for [the virus],” Lorenzana said.
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