9,000 more OFWs come home amid COVID-19 crisis

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Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA)

ABOUT 9,000 overseas Filipinos came home last week amid a coronavirus pandemic that has sickened 19.8 million and killed nearly 730,000 people worldwide, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

The agency said 8,924 Filipinos were repatriated, including about 3,660 Filipinos from the United Arab Emirates who flew home through 13 special commercial flights and one chartered by DFA.

“The DFA reaffirmed its commitment to bring home our overseas Filipinos from the UAE as the deadline to leave the country for those with expired tourist visas drew near,” it said in a statement on Saturday night.

More than 2,300 Filipino seafarers also returned from Bangladesh, Italy, Spain, Japan, Singapore, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. The others were stranded workers in Mongolia, Palau and the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

This brought the number of repatriated workers to 124,717 — 75,062 land-based workers and 49,655 sailors.

The agency is also working on the return of distressed Filipinos in Lebanon and Uzbekistan, it said.

The Philippine Embassy in Beirut said that as of Aug. 8, one more Filipino had been reported missing, bringing the total missing persons to two after an explosion in the Lebanese capital.

Eleven more Filipino workers were said to have been injured, bringing the total to 42, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said in a separate statement.The death toll stood at four.

The number of affected Filipino migrants is expected to increase considering the impact of the explosion at a port warehouse that stored 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, a substance used for fertilizers and explosives.

A repatriation flight has been set for Aug. 16 to bring home distressed Filipinos as well as the remains of those who died, DFA said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan