The government has been assisting our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) who have decided to come home after many years of work in many countries. It is only fair that the government help our OFWs who have long been responsible for a major portion of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Now that they are the ones in need of help, the government has set aside P5 billion under the Bayanihan law for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) for the repatriation and other assistance to OFWs.
This week, 8,329 more OFWs arrived on chartered flights from Kenya, Peru, Israel, Russia, Turks & Caicos, Iraq, and Egypt. Several flights are due from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Malaysia this week. As of August 29, the government had brought home 173,088 OFWs on chartered flights from various countries where all commercial flights have been cancelled, assisting them all the way to their home provinces.
The main problem the government has had to deal with in the case of all returning Filipinos has been the COVID-19 infections that so many of them are bringing from other countries. The Department of Health (DOH) said that of the total 290,919 Filipinos who have arrived during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, 6,395 tested positive for the disease and were admitted to various hospitals. Of this total, 5,350 have already recovered. But five have died.
COVID-19 remains the principal national concern today, the reason the General Community Quarantine (GCQ) lockdown continues in Metro Manila and several provinces. We have been under various forms of lockdown restrictions since March 15, nearly six months ago.
Meanwhile, the national economy has plunged and the country is now in a recession. Millions of people have lost their jobs as many businesses and industries in the country have either closed down or reduced their operations. Thousand of OFWS are returning to the Philippines for the same reason—businesses and industries where they used to work in other countries have also closed down.
Our focus continues to this day on this health problem posed by COVID-19. But the government must now start looking ahead to the problem of restoring the economy. It has had six months to attend to the health problem posed by COVID-19. It would be reassuring to know that our officials are even now drawing up concrete plans, supported by solid funding, to bring life back to the national economy and – most important –to the lives of common ordinary Filipinos.