Over 82K Filipinos overseas repatriated amid COVID-19 pandemic — DFA
MANILA, Philippines — More than 82,000 Filipinos overseas have been repatriated back to the Philippines as nations continue to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported Tuesday.
During the hybrid hearing of the House committee on public accounts, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said that 82,057 overseas Filipinos from over 60 countries and 132 cruise ships have been repatriated as of July 13.
Of this number, 38,308 are sea-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) while 43,749 are land-based OFWs.
Between June 26 and July 13, Arriola said that 25,777 overseas Filipinos were repatriated from the Middle East (15,959), Asia and the Pacific (3,687), Americas (3,510), Europe (2,565), and Africa (56).
For the month of July, Arriola said that they are eyeing to bring home 50,557 overseas Filipinos through flights from the UAE and Saudi Arabia.
DFA, however, is also facing some struggles, said Arriola.
For instance, in the case of Qatar, Arriola said there are stranded Filipinos who have previously purchased a ticket through Philippine Airlines. However, commercial flights are still not being allowed in the Middle East country.
“Karamihan sa kanila (Most of them are) PAL ticket holders, however, we have not been granted, we have been making representations, we have not been allowed to bring in our commercial flights,” Arriola said.
“’Yung ibang kababayan natin sinasabi nila, hindi kaya ng mga employers nila na bumili ng ticket for Qatar, yung binigay sa kanilang pera, only good for PAL,” she added.
(Some of our countrymen said that their employers can’t shoulder tickets for Qatar Airways. The money given to them is only good for PAL.)
Arriola said the Philippine government already has one repatriation flight to Qatar through PAL and that they are working on providing two additional flights.
The foreign affairs official likewise, reported that 8,869 overseas Filipinos have been infected by COVID-19 as of July 13.
Of this number, Arriola said that 5,276 have recovered and 618 have died.
As per the location of the infected overseas Filipinos, 6,429 are in the Middle East and Africa; 1,053 are in Europe; 699 are in the Americas, and 688 are in the Asia and the Pacific.
In the same hearing, Arriola also raised several concerns such as the depleting funds of the DFA and issues on officials and personnel in the Philippines’ foreign posts also being infected by COVID-19.
New quarantine sites are also needed for overseas Filipinos, Arriola added.
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