Despite the COVID-19 crisis, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) continues its repatriation efforts, with more than 342,000 overseas Filipinos brought home this week.
During Wednesday’s Laging Handa public briefing, DFA Undersecretary Sarah Lou Ariola said many Filipinos overseas, however, have decided to stay in their destination countries as COVID-19 mass vaccination has already been rolled out, especially by some Middle East countries.
“Napansin po namin towards December, marami na rin po yung mga nagdedesisyon na mag-stay. In fact, yung sweeper flight po namin na dumaan ng Lebanon at Bahrain, ang umuwi lang po doon 285,” she said.
(We noticed that towards December, many have decided to stay. In fact, only 285 [overseas Filipinos] boarded our sweeper flight which passed by Lebanon and Bahrain.)
“Tapos yung pinakahuli po yung sinabayan po namin na repatriation flight from UAE and Manama, ano lang po talaga 324. May mga nagba-back out lalo na po yung sa Middle East dahil nagsisimula na rin po yung vaccination nila,” she added.
(The last repatriation flight from UAE and Manama where we have joined, [there were] only 324 [repatriates]. Some have backed out especially those who are in the Middle East because they have already started their vaccination [program].)
Ariola said the Middle East has reopened the economy, aiming to achieve herd immunity before Ramadan.
She also lauded the vaccination efforts of Arab countries, noting that even non-residents can avail of the free vaccines on a first-come, first-served basis.
In the case of Bahrain, they can choose either from China-made Sinopharm or American drugmaker Pfizer.
“Yung Middle East countries nag-order sila as early as June kaya naunahan talaga nila ang ibang bansa kaya mas mabilis sila mag-open ng economy,” she said.
(The Middle East countries placed their vaccine orders as early as June [last year] so they were ahead of other countries that is why they were able to reopen their economy.)
In addition, she said Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom of Bahrain Alfonso Ver and Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto have already been vaccinated.
Even overseas Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates have availed of the free vaccines, citing the Arab region believes that “no one is safe until everyone is safe.”
Ariola is encouraging more Filipinos abroad to avail of the free vaccination program by their host countries.