After more than two months, Filipino fishermen stranded in Fiji have finally returned home, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday, Nov. 17.
Through a special charter flight, the 36 Filipino fishermen were brought back to the Philippines. They arrived at the Davao International Airport on Nov. 5.
According to the DFA, they were crew members of Chinese-operated fishing boats and were originally scheduled to return to the country on Aug. 20. However, 19 of them tested positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) prior to their flight.
“Apart from making arrangements for the fishermen’s repatriation and Philippine entry protocol requirements, quarantine amenities, and COVID-19 tests, they were also provided with welfare assistance of food and other essential items while still stranded in Fiji and awaiting their rescheduled flight,” the Foreign Affairs department said.
The 19 fishermen, who contracted the viral disease, were also granted P10,000 financial aid for their aftercare under Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s (OWWA) Alagang Kabayan Project, while the rest of the workers received P5,000 cash assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).
The DFA attributed the successful repatriation of the fishermen to the collective efforts and resources of agencies under the Philippine Embassy in Wellington, New Zealand, comprised of its assistance-to-nationals unit, its Philippine Overseas Labor Office, OWWA representation, as well as the Philippine Honorary Consulate General in Suva, Fiji.
The team also closely coordinated with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and OWWA in Manila, and received crucial support from the Filipino community in Fiji, the agency said.