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Stranded OFW return stepped up

Gabbie Parlade

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The Philippine Ambassador to China on Saturday said they will conduct more repatriation efforts for stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in China.

Ambassador Jose Santiago Santa Romana said they will include the ship crewmembers still stuck at sea as well as another group of land-based workers unable to return to the Philippines.

“So there are two kinds of problems, one is the repatriation from here for the stranded seafarers who want to go back and there are also other stranded Filipinos that are working here but cannot go back because there are no flights available,” he said in a televised briefing.

“If there are, it’s only a few and the ticket is too expensive,” he added.

The Philippine consulates all over China are targeting to bring the seafarers home by November while the other workers are set for next week.

Santa Romana said probably one flight will be allotted for the less than 100 seafarers while two others will be designated for the group of 300 workers.

He said that it will be a collaborative effort between the envoy, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE).

Among the reasons why both batches of OFW were not able to go home were due to the flight restrictions and policies still imposed in China against incoming individuals in the country.

For one, the seafarers were not allowed to disembark despite having a finished contract or being abandoned by their management due to financial reasons, as a measure against COVID-19.

At present, Santa Romana said that China has been able to recover from the effects of the pandemic with lesser community transmission noted within the country.

However, he said authorities are now more focused on the number of imported cases which are usually seen among foreigners and Chinese citizens coming from other countries.

As of 18 October, the DFA has repatriated a total of 223,294 OFWS since February where over 73,000 were sea-based while more than 149,000 others were land-based.

No entry
Meanwhile, the Chinese government is not allowing the entry of foreigners, including Filipinos in view of the continuous global threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to Sta. Romana.

“The Chinese government is not encouraging international tourism at the moment because they are focused on international arrivals since they have zero community transmission here,” Sta. Romana said.

Sta. Romana added that Chinese national are not allowed to leave their country. However, he noted that domestic tourism in the Mainland is booming.

with Bella Cariaso

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