DFA ready to assist OFWs stranded en route to Kuwait

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    THE Department of Foreign Affairs yesterday said it is checking reports that overseas Filipino workers en route to Kuwait have been stranded in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates after the Kuwaiti government included the Philippines in its travel ban to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

    DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said he has directed embassies in Qatar and UAE to verify the information and to provide assistance.

    “The embassies and consulate general are currently checking international airports within their jurisdictions for affected Filipinos,” the DFA said.

    It added the embassies in Abu Dhabi and Doha as well as the consulate in Dubai are ready to provide assistance to Filipinos, including facilitating their flights back to Manila.

    “Stranded Filipinos may contact the following numbers: Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi UAE at +971502079988,+971502079898,+971504438003, the Philippine Embassy in Doha, Qatar at +97444832560 and +97466446303 and the Philippine Consulate General in UAE at +971555017755, +971555015756 and +97142207100,” the DFA said.

    The DFA reiterated its reminder to all Filipinos that the Kuwaiti government has temporarily suspended all incoming flights to the Kuwait International Airport from the Philippines, India, Egypt, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Sri Lanka and Syria as a measure to prevent the spread of the virus.

    The travel ban was put into effect for a period of one week starting March 6.

    Meanwhile, recruitment analyst Emmanuel Geslani yesterday said the coronavirus outbreak is expected to impact deployment of OFWs, both land and sea-based.

    “The deployment of OFWs in 2020 will suffer substantial deployment losses as the fear of the dreaded COVID-19 spreads to many parts of the world,” Geslani said, citing as an example the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the virus has prompted authorities to restrict the entry of workers.

    Geslani also noted the recent banning of the entry of flights coming from the Philippines to Kuwait, saying this is unfortunate considering the deployment ban imposed by the Philippines to Kuwait has just been lifted recently.

    Geslani also said sea-based OFWs are also expected to suffer considering that several cruise ships have cancelled their scheduled trips. He said Princess Cruises alone has already cancelled 12 cruises scheduled through March 20 while Royal Caribbean has cancelled eight China cruises through March 4.

    Geslani said even cargo ships with OFWs on board are now expected to reduce their destinations as countries, such as China, have implemented lockdowns, which practically stopped imports and exports of products.

    Filipino seafarers comprise one-third of the world’s shipping manpower.

    The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines yesterday called on employers to heed the call of the Department of Labor and Employment to adopt flexible work arrangements in a bid to cope with the COVID-19 spread in the country.

    TUCP President Raymond Mendoza said the uncertainty caused by COVID-19 can be mitigated if there is stronger cooperation between workers and employers.

    The DOLE had earlier issued guidelines for companies to temporarily adopt flexible work arrangements, saying it is the better option than laying off workers or shutting down operations.

    CBCP WEIGHS IN

    With trips to the Holy Land now restricted due to the coronavirus, an official of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines has urged pilgrims to stay healthy and keep on praying away.

    CBCP-Commission On Migrants & Itinerant People Vice Chairman Bishop Ruperto Santos said: “What we have to do is pray more, be more cautious with our personal hygiene, and always follow the medical directives of our government officials.”

    He issued this statement after the DFA advised all Filipinos planning to go on pilgrimage to the Holy Land to postpone their trips until further notice. The Palestinian Authority had decided to temporarily ban the entry of all tourists into the West Bank, including Bethlehem and Jericho.

    Similarly, the Israeli government has restricted all travels to Bethlehem from Israel. – With Gerard Naval