More Filipinos come home

MORE than 300,000 migrant Filipino workers have come home amid a coronavirus pandemic that has sickened 72.7 million people and killed 1.6 million worldwide, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

A total of 13,537 Filipinos arrived last week, the highest weekly count since DFA started the repatriation program in February, the agency said in a statement on Sunday night.

It facilitated 59 flights to bring home 319 distressed Filipinos from Dammam and Saudi Arabia; 11 who got stranded in Malaysia; nine undocumented workers in China; two seafarers in the Bahamas; and another in Australia.

Eight medical repatriates from France, Japan, Austria, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and the United States also came home. Three were from Qatar, Egypt and Syria, who may have been victims of human trafficking.

This brought the beneficiaries to 300,838 Filipinos, including 90,621 seafarers and 210,217 land-based workers, DFA said.

“This is the biggest repatriation effort in the history of the DFA and of the Philippines,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said in the statement.

In a separate statement, DFA on Monday reported 42 new coronavirus cases, 35 recoveries and one death.

About 12,350 Filipinos overseas have been infected with the virus, 3,457 of whom were being treated, 8,032 have recovered and 861 died. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

BI bats for ‘COVID-19 passports’

THE BUREAU of Immigration (BI) on Monday said it agrees with a proposal for a COVID-19 passport for international travelers that will show they have been vaccinated and are coronavirus-free.

In a statement, Immigration Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said this would speed up immigration processing at airports and could revive the travel industry.

He said the current procedure of requiring travelers to get tested at the airport “could pose problems” as the country reopens its borders.

“The anticipated influx of more international travelers could result in longer queues and overcrowding in our immigration counters as all of these passengers should be tested at the airport before they are allowed to enter the country,” he said.

Mr. Morente said having a COVID-19 passport showing that a traveller had been vaccinated and is not infected would result in quicken the immigration process.

He said he expects travelers to start arriving in the Philippines by the second half of next year, when a vaccine will have been available locally. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

FB to expose lockdown violators

THE PHILIPPINE National Police (PNP) on Monday said it would monitor social media for potential quarantine violators amid a coronavirus pandemic during the holiday season.

PNP Chief of Staff Cesar R. Binag told a news briefing on Monday Facebook and other social media sites might show photos of people in large gatherings despite the prohibition.

Last week, Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Epimaco V. Densing III said local government officials should issue ordinances prohibiting mass gatherings and videoke activities during the holiday season.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 chief implementer Carlito G. Galvez, Jr. said the government would ask President Rodrigo R. Duterte to urge the public to take precautions before Christmas week.

The President is set to give a public address on Wednesday.

Mr. Galvez said he and Interior and local government officials were in talks on possible measures that will govern holiday events, including limiting attendance to 10% to 30%. — Gillian M. Cortez