Over 52,000 overseas Filipinos have returned to the Philippines since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, according to the latest figures from the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The DFA on Tuesday, June 23 repatriated 60 stranded Filipinos from New Delhi, India, while the day before, it brought home a total of 667 overseas Filipinos from Barbados and the United Arab Emirates who arrived on two separate flights at Clark International Airport.
It also welcomed the return of 280 Filipinos from Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia in its first repatriation from North Africa on the same day.
Over the weekend, overseas Filipino workers came from Japan, Norway, Oman, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, United States, and Vietnam. The agency added that it chartered four flights carrying 1,464 Filipinos from Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Macau.
Meanwhile, 30 stranded Filipinos in India and Sri Lanka were able to return home on June 12 onboard the BRP Davao Del Sur with the assistance of the DFA.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Atty. Brigido J. Dulay attended the arrival ceremony on June 16 to welcome the repatriates home.
“The DFA, together with its Philippine embassies and consulates around the world, remains fully committed to bringing home our nationals abroad amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” the agency said.
It also noted that they are expecting the number of Filipinos returning to the Philippines to increase in the coming months as countries continue to struggle to restart their economies amid the pandemic.
Malacañang said it is expecting that the number of repatriated Filipinos would reach 100,000 in the coming months.
According to President Rodrigo Duterte, nearly 29,963 seafarers are expected to be sent home.
The DFA also said 17,830 land-based OFWs showed interest in being repatriated.
“Barring any complications, this would bring the total number of repatriates to 93,675,” Duterte said.
However, he noted that “the number of repatriated Filipinos could reach 100,000 or even higher in the coming months” due to the pandemic.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque, meanwhile, cited the Department of Labor and Employment’s data that showed 50,105 OFWs have been transported back to their home provinces as of June 15.
He also said that the Palace will prioritize OFWs and locally stranded individuals before deciding whether to allow provincial buses to operate again.
“As of now our main problem are the stranded individuals and OFWs which provinces don’t want to accept,” Roque said in Filipino.
The Department of Labor and Employment earlier estimated that some 500,000 OFWs may be displaced and out of work by the end of August, with the number growing to about 700,000 by the end of 2020 as the pandemic continues to sweep across the globe and affecting industries, such as tourism and trade.
DOLE Undersecretary Claro Arellano assured that the agency will provide the repatriated Filipinos with assistance through its “OFW recovery plan,” which centers on reintegrating the now-jobless Filipinos back in society.
“We have our recovery plan for the OFWs, ‘yung tulong po na gagawin natin sa kanila. Kaya lang ang wala pa po tayo ay ‘yung projected [number] (That’s how we will help them. What we don’t have right now is the projected number),” he said.