20,000 OFWs stranded in Metro Manila
Jose Rodel Clapano (The Philippine Star May 14, 2020 - 12:00am)
MANILA, Philippines — Some 20,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) remain stranded in Metro Manila, according to presidential adviser on the peace process Carlito Galvez Jr., chief implementer of the National Task Force against Coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) Response.
Galvez said that about 42,000 OFWs are returning home this month.
“We have also considered how could the government better address the influx of the returning overseas Filipinos and the transport of local stranded individuals,” Galvez said.
He said the government should concentrate on preventing, containing and mitigating the impact of the pandemic.
“In the absence of a vaccine, all that we can do is prevent and contain it and mitigate its impact,” Galvez said.
He said the government, however, cannot continue the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for an extended period of time as its resources are very limited.
“Our plan is COVID carrier-centric, meaning to contain the virus we have to focus our intervention on the carriers. Our revised operational framework added the prevention prior to detection phase and the adoption of the end-to-end T3 management system for COVID-19 carriers, which mean test, trace and treat,” Galvez said.
The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said that more than 400,000 OFWs displaced by COVID-19 have sought financial assistance from the government.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said DOLE has almost exhausted its budget for the Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program and could no longer provide financial assistance to OFWs needing cash aid.
“DOLE has already disbursed P1.11 billion of the P1.5-billion budget of our program,” Bello said as he stressed that the remaining fund would not be sufficient to cover the huge number of those seeking financial aid from the government.
Based on DOLE data, a total of 409,020 have filed applications for DOLE-AKAP as of May 12.
According to Bello, DOLE has stopped accepting applications for the one time cash grant of $200.
“We have already put on hold the program because we have (exceeded) our allocation, which is only for 150,000 OFWs,” Bello said.
Of the total applications filed, DOLE has approved 142,550. Of the approved applications, 109,182 have received the cash grant.
A majority or 234,535 of the applications came from OFWs who are still onsite. DOLE has disbursed P668.36 million for the over 64,000 displaced OFWs abroad.
A total of 174,485 displaced OFWs who have returned home have also filed application for AKAP. Of the applicants, 57,517 were approved and 44,917 have received the financial aid.
DOLE denied the applications of 27,675 OFWs for various reasons such as: they were not affected by the lockdown; have been repatriated long before the COVID outbreak or they are still receiving pay from their foreign employers.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) said that 5,000 out of almost 8,000 Filipino crewmembers onboard the 22 foreign cruise ships now anchored at Manila Bay were tested for COVID-19.
While it has not yet allowed the disembarkation of Filipino seafarers, PCG spokesman Commodore Armand Balilo said the crew of 14 cruise ships were subjected to swab tests and are now waiting for the results.
He said six teams of healthcare workers were sent yesterday to the Manila Bay anchorage area to test around 2,000 Filipino seafarers from six ships.
The PCG has partnered with the Philippine Red Cross in conducting swab tests for the Filipino seafarers before they will be allowed to disembark and go home as part of the requirement of the Department of Health (DOH).
The PCG has allowed the entry of foreign cruise ships in the Philippines to let Filipino seafarers and crewmembers go home amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Foreign crews of the cruise ship are not allowed to disembark.
PCG commandant Admiral Joel Garcia said that seafarers who tested negative on the Red Cross swab will be immediately sent home with the help of the Department of Transportation.
Mayen Jaymalin, Robertzon Ramirez