More than 405K overseas Pinoys repatriated since Feb. 2020, DFA said

Since February 2020, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has repatriated 405,769 distressed overseas Filipinos (OFs), according to an official.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola stated 105,606 OFs were sea-based, while 300,163 were land-based, in a virtual press conference.

However, Arriola stated that due to the threat posed by the Delta strain of the coronavirus disease 2019, they must adhere to travel limitations set by some governments.

“For UAE since June, we repatriated through our chartered flights 2,069 stranded Filipinos already in the UAE and 351 repatriates from Oman. Today July 30, there is one flight that’s leaving UAE and we have scheduled six flights also that are leaving this coming August and we have two flights also for Oman,” she said.

Meanwhile, Arriola pleaded with OFs and their families for patience, saying that the DFA must adhere to the criteria imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on repatriation operations.

“We understand there are thousands of people who are stranded all over the world and we are doing our best to bring everyone home. It’s just that we cannot bring everyone home at the same time,” she said.

The number of repatriations every day, according to Arriola, is dependent on the availability of quarantine facilities in the country.

“We continually meet with our counterparts to be able to increase the absorptive capacity, but of course, now, we are not only receiving people in Manila. Davao had opened up also and also Cebu had opened up,” she added.

The city of Laoag opened facilities to house the returning workers, but they were forced to close due to constraints. Repatriation planes are operated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and local manning agencies in addition to the DFA.

DFA's mission, according to Arriola, normally encompasses irregular and illegal workers, as well as those in emergency situations.

“We have lesser repatriation flights in Saudi Arabia, because DOLE is already doing that. So, we coordinated also with our partner agencies to be able to have a balance. In UAE, many of our repatriates, some of them are not regular workers, some of them are undocumented, and some are really tourists,” she said. In August, the DFA hopes to return 4,610 Filipinos who have been stranded around the world. 

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