MORE than 300,000 Filipinos have been repatriated from countries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic last year, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The DFA said of the 327,511 overseas Filipinos brought home, 231,537 or 70.7 percent are land-based workers coming from at least 90 countries, while the remaining 29.3 percent or 95, 974 are seafarers from more than 150 cruise ships, oil tankers and other bulk carriers.
Of the repatriates, 228,893 came from the Middle East, 36,868 from the Asia Pacific region, 30,971 from the Americas, 28,909 from Europe and 1,870 from Africa.
The DFA mounted the first repatriation flight last February 9, 2020 when it brought home 30 Filipinos from Wuhan City in China where the first COVID-19 case was reported.
Last month marked the highest monthly total of repatriated Filipinos at 51,770.
Meanwhile, the Department of Labor and Employment said the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration has expressed concern over the possibility of quarantine facilities running out due to the long 14-day quarantine period.
In a virtual press briefing, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac has aired his concern that there could be fewer available rooms for repatriated OFWs as many are required to complete the mandatory 14-day quarantine after coming from areas covered by existing travel restrictions.
“Administrator Cacdac is very apprehensive that we may run out of hotel rooms because we are repatriating no less than 1,000 to 3,500 OFWs daily,” said Bello.
“That’s one fear and one condition that we have to take into account,” he added.
Under existing travel restrictions, OFWs from countries covered are allowed to return home provided that they undergo COVID-19 testing and the mandatory 14-day quarantine regardless of their test results.
This is in contrast to the existing policy, wherein OFWs who arrive in the country are allowed to head home as soon as they get a negative swab test result.
Bello said this is one of the reasons why the country is looking at the possibility of no longer exempting OFWs in the travel restriction. – With Gerard Naval