More Filipinos from Japan, Saudi Arabia arrive; repatriation count now over 68,000

NEARLY 600 overseas Filipinos from Japan and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia arrived at the weekend, bringing the total number of repatriations since February to 68,440 as the coronavirus pandemic displaces workers and affects global travel. The most recent arrivals include 558 stranded Filipinos from Japan and Saudi Arabia who were brought home via two chartered flights on Saturday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported in a social media post Saturday evening. Of this, 204 were stranded tourists, students and workers in Japan, according to the Philippine Embassy there. “The 204 passengers, some coming from as far as Okinawa, departed from Narita International Airport onboard the 3rd repatriation flight organized by the Embassy,” it said in a statement. There have been 830 repatriated Filipinos from Japan, including 445 seafarers who were on board the M/V Diamond Princess and another batch of 160 stranded individuals, among others. Of the full repatriation count, 35,059 are seafarers and 33,381 are land-based workers. Meanwhile, the DFA has so far monitored 8,629 confirmed coronavirus cases involving Filipinos abroad, of whom 5,200 have recovered, 2,866 are undergoing treatment and 563 have died.

In a separate development, the DFA announced its Office of Consular Affairs in Aseana in Parañaque City and NCR South in Alabang will be closed on Monday until further notice for disinfection and other health safety protocols. “Applicants who have prior appointments will be accommodated as soon as these offices resume operations,” the department said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan

Filipinos still banned from foreign travel for leisure, business

THE BUREAU of Immigration (BI) reminded the public that travelling abroad for leisure, or even business, is still prohibited. “We want to emphasize and reiterate that Filipinos are still prohibited from leaving the country unless they are Overseas Filipino Workers, holders of study visas or permanent residents in the country of their destination,” Commissioner Jaime H. Morente said in a statement on Sunday. The reminder was issued after six Filipinos bound for Cambodia via a chartered flight were barred from travelling. Port Operations Division Chief Grifton SP. Medina said the six passengers were offloaded from the flight after telling immigration officers that they are going there for a business meeting. BI said there were several other instances of Filipino tourists who were stopped from boarding their flights at the international airport in Manila given restrictions due to the coronavirus crisis. “These travel restrictions are only temporary and we should always bear in mind that the government implemented these measures to protect our countrymen against this deadly coronavirus,” Mr. Medina said. The country has been under quarantine since mid-March to contain the spread of the virus. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas

POEA adapts online submission for overseas worker agencies

EMPLOYMENT AGENCIES for overseas workers are now required to submit online the requirements for license renewal and application while actual inspections are suspended amid the coronavirus crisis. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) announced the policy through Advisory No. 90 dated July 3. Apart from sending via e-mail, another option is leaving hard copies of the required documents in designated drop boxes at the POEA office lobby. The new rule applies to agencies of both land-based and sea-based workers. “(T)he ocular inspection/assessment of landbased and seabased agencies, including applicant-companies, undertaken by the Inspectorate of the Licensing branch and the POEA Regional Offices have been temporarily suspended,” the agency said. POEA will validate the documents after the suspension is lifted. — Gillian M. Cortez