By Roy Mabasa
Philippine Ambassador to Muscat Narciso Castañeda on Thursday admitted that the funds to help Filipinos affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in Oman are “limited” while embassy assistance is currently on hold due to the prevailing lockdown being imposed by the Omani government to prevent the spread of the disease.
Castañeda made this disclosure during a phone patch interview at the regular Laging Handa briefing of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Disease (IATF-EID).
“At the moment, everything is fine. We are coping very well despite the lockdown. We are doing our best to help our kababayans,” Castañeda said, adding that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) is providing various programs, including the disbursement of Akap, the one-time cash assistance for Filipinos abroad displaced by the pandemic.
“POLO is here with the Akap program. Our funds are not enough and we can only extend limited assistance,” he said.
There are more or less 80,000 Filipinos in Oman, almost half of whom are employed as domestic helpers.
On the repatriation, the Philippine envoy said the Muscat International Airport is currently closed due to the existing lockdown. Only flights authorized by the Omani government are allowed to fly.
Filipinos in Oman who may wish to be repatriated are advised to call the embassy and indicate their intention to go back home.
“To those who want to go home, we ask them to indicate their intention. Normally, it is their company that pays for their return travel,” Castañeda explained.
Based on the latest figures posted by COVID-19 monitoring online platform Worldometer, the total number of coronavirus cases in Oman is now 2,903 with 888 recoveries and 13 deaths.