By Hanah Tabios
Some 31,000 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have already returned to their homes after being stuck for several weeks in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the government has already expedited the return of 25,002 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) beginning May 25 until May 31 upon the order of President Rodrigo Duterte. He said an additional 6,700 returning OFWs were also sent home to their respective provinces from June 1 to June 5, which brings the total to 31,700.
Cacdac said the move was made possible in partnership with the Department of Transportation (DOTr), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), as well as with the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), that provided chartered flights and vehicles for the transfer.
He assured the public that the repatriated OFWs were quarantined and tested under the rules imposed by the country’s health department. Most of those who tested positive are asymptomatic.
“Nagpapasalamat din tayo sa mga LGUs na nagsundo ng kani-kanilang constituents sa mga iba’t-ibang quarantine facilities sa panahon na iyon (We are also thankful to the LGUs for fetching their constituents from the different quarantine facilities),” he said.
The OWWA administrator said around 25,000 Filipino migrant workers were laid off from their jobs in the cruise ship industry as it was severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. But he said their employers promised to rehire them once the situation normalizes.
The labor department, through the Employment’s Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) social amelioration program, has already rolled out its one-time financial assistance worth P10,000 to the displaced Filipino workers.
Cacdac said 72,000 displaced OFWs have already benefited from the program.
“Iyon naman pong mga balanse, mayroon pang mga around 200,000 na aplikante na kailangan pang ma-cover kaya inaasahan natin dito sa second round of legislation ay mako-cover din sila (We are expecting 200,000 applicants who will be covered by the assistance under the second round of legislation [of Bayanihan to Heal as Once Act]), he added.
Prior to the reopening of international borders, Cacdac reminded the OFWs who are set to return to their host countries to keep in touch with their recruitment agencies for additional requirements amid the strict health protocols to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.