By Jun Ramirez
The Bureau of Immigration (BI) has allowed more than 16,000 Filipino and foreign seafarers to disembark from cruise ships that arrived and anchored at the Manila Bay since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a report to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, BI seaport operations chief Alnazib Decampong said that of the 16,287 seafarers cleared by BI boarding inspectors, 11,189 are Filipinos and 5,098 are foreigners.
Decampong said the seafarers disembarked from 42 vessels from April 16 to June 15 after they were quarantined and tested for COVID-19 aboard their ships.
He added that around 2,300 seafarers are still awaiting repatriation and remain quarantined aboard their vessels.
BI boarding supervisor Abinal Usman said the repatriated Filipino seafarers are immediately transported to their places of residence through the help of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).
Foreign seafarers are only allowed to disembark upon their presentation of a confirmed outbound plane ticket for their country of origin. They will be escorted to the airport by BI personnel on the date and time of their scheduled departure.
It was learned that last June 11, a group of 122 Sri Lankan seafarers were repatriated to their homeland at the request of their embassy in Manila.
Usman also said that alien seamen with Filipino spouses are also allowed to disembark and join their families provided they submit a letter of request, marriage certificate, photocopy of passport of Filipino spouse, negative COVID swab test result, and endorsement from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).