By Alexandria Dennise San Juan
Over 500 Filipino seafarers who have completed their 14-day mandatory quarantine period are set to go back home to their provinces, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said on Wednesday.
According to the DOTr, its “Seafarers Balik-Probinsya Program” is now in full-swing to assist a total of 584 seafarers who have been cleared of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to return home.
“The DOTr has already assisted two batches of repatriated and distressed seafarers. The first batch was composed of 305 seafarers, and the second was composed of 279 seafarers,” the Department said in a statement.
The sea-based overseas Filipino workers have been allowed to go home after the two-week mandatory self-quarantine in the quarantine vessels of 2GO Group Inc. setup by the government for repatriates to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Upon completing the quarantine, the DOTr said that seafarers will be issued an Authority to Travel permit from the Inter-Agency Task Force and will be booked and reserved 2GO ship tickets to confirm the schedule of travel back to their respective provinces.
After coordinating with 2GO, a medical team from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) will conduct Rapid Antibody Testing to seafarers in an authorized medical facility in the area.
The seafarers will be transported to Pier 4 in Port Area, Manila and, before checking in, authorities must assure that they passed the screening and testing protocols before boarding.
In line with the program, a Malasakit Help Desk has also been set up by the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA), with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), PCG, and other concerned agencies, to assist in resolving the concerns of the seafarers.
The Seafarers Balik-Probinsya Program is a joint initiative of the DOTr, MARINA, PCG, PPA, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Department of Health, the Bureau of Quarantine, concerned local government units, and the seafarers’ local manning agencies.
With its initial success, the Department assured that the program will accommodate more batches of returning seafarers within the coming days.