By Roy Mabasa
Nearly 1,000 Filipino seafarers are currently stranded in France awaiting repatriation, Philippine Ambassador to Paris Maria Theresa Lazaro said on Wednesday, April 15. According to Lazaro, the stranded Filipinos sea-based workers are mostly crewmembers of different cruise ships that were affected by the outbreak of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
She said that they are coordinating with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) assigned at the Philippine Embassy in Madrid, Spain to arrange the repatriation of the Filipino seafarers who were stranded due to the pandemic. France and other European countries are in complete lockdown. There is no Philippine labor attache assigned at the Embassy in Paris.
“We have received requests and we are ready to respond. We are coordinating with the POLO in Madrid and the French government for their immediate repatriation,” the Philippine envoy said during an interview at the regular “Laging Handa” program of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID). Lazaro said she expects the repatriation to take place in the next couple of days, even as the Philippine government prepares for the return of hundreds of other Filipino seafarers from all over the world who were directly affected by the global pandemic.
Earlier, COVID-19 national policy Chief Implemeter Carlito Galvez said some 70,000 to 100,000 OFWs displaced by the coronavirus crisis are now home-bound. To facilitate the required quarantine requirements of returning OFWs, the IATF-EID has created a sub-task force unit to be led by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).