MANILA: More than 13,000 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) returned to the Philippines on Monday after the country initiated a process to repatriate its citizens amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak.
The latest group of workers arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and included crew from cruise ships stranded in Miami and Barbados.
They were greeted by representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ), the Bureau of Immigration (BI) and local agencies.
The BOQ conducted mandatory health checks before briefing the OFWs on the precautions to take.
The DFA said some of the workers have been allowed to observe a 14-day quarantine at home, while others will be moved to a designated quarantine facility.
“The DFA ensures the safe and successful repatriation of Filipinos in distress through close coordination and cooperation with its partner agencies — the Department of Health, the BI, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Department of Transportation — through a government approach, and the vital support of the private sector,” the DFA said in a statement.
The government repatriating a group of OFWs from Kuwait last week who benefited from the ongoing amnesty program initiated by the Kuwaiti government to further control the spread of COVID-19.
In a statement, the Philippine Consul General to Kuwait Mohd. Noordin Pendosina N. Lomondot said that the month-long amnesty program “shows not only the Kuwaiti government’s seriousness in fighting the COVID-19, but also the Kuwaiti spirit of generosity to its more than three million expatriates during these trying times.”
Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said her department has secured a total of 11,549 hotel rooms to accommodate some of the OFWs during quarantine.
The Department of the Interior and Local Government urged local government units to enforce anti-discrimination and anti-harassment laws to protect frontline health workers as well as returning OFWs.
This comes amid reports of harassment and discrimination experienced by some frontline workers — including health professionals, police, military, essential services personnel, social workers and repatriated OFWs — who were refused basic services such as public transport and entry into supermarkets or grocery stores, or being evicted from their lodgings.