PRESIDENT Duterte on Monday night directed the Department of Foreign Affairs to assist sea-based Filipino workers stranded abroad due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
The President, in his weekly “Talk to the People” address, said some of the seafarers may have contracted the virus or not been infected but just stayed in the ships “and just bear it all.” He said the problem is some of these seafarers had been at sea for as much as two to three years.
“There are Filipinos who are, itong mga seafarers, karamihan nito na-stranded, naiwan sa barko and where they were not allowed to dock or magdiskarga ng intended cargoes nila for a certain destination because of COVID (There are Filipinos who are, the seafarers, many of them stranded, left behind in the ships and where they were not allowed to dock or drop the intended cargoes for a certain destination because of COVID),” Duterte said.
He said it pains him to see the inadequacy in the assistance extended by the government to these people.
The President said the DFA officials should work with the foreign governments concerned to help stranded workers.
“A human being should never, never be a commodity that is just left behind to rot. These are human beings and Filipinos, he said.
Duterte issued the directive after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported that some 3,000 overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) are still awaiting repatriation from Sabah in Malaysia, with a fifth batch of Filipinos to be repatriated next week. This would bring the number of repatriates to 2,000.
The President also made an appeal to the Malaysian government to assist the Filipinos to return to the country, amid tensions over the territorial claims of both countries.
“Now, I am happy to hear from Secretary Galvez that they are coming home, some of them are from Sabah…That has been a very ticklish issue between our governments. And we are, we are trying our best to appeal to the humanitarian sense of the Malaysian government to please help our citizens in your country, as we would, as we would do for your citizens if they are in our country,” he said.
Galvez reported that as of September 14, a total of 200,431 OFWs have been repatriated from all over the world with at least 80,000 OFWs expected to return to the country this year.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Ano , meanwhile, said qualified OFWs and displaced workers will be prioritized in the hiring of 50,000 more contact tracers.
Ano said funding for the new contact tracers would be sourced from the P5-billion fund included in the “Bayanihan to Recover as One” or Bayanihan 2.