A member of the Philippine House of Representatives on Saturday called for the repatriation of up to 167,000 migrant workers stranded in different countries around the globe due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our modern-day heroes have been stuck in their host countries since the coronavirus outbreak three months ago. We should bring them home as soon as possible,” Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, chair of the House committee on public accounts said.
Rep. Defensor appealed to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to arrange flights to bring home the displaced workers abroad.
“The [OFWs] are now low on funds, if they still have money. They rely on aid from our government and their host countries for food,” Defensor added.
He said it is the consensus of his committee and leaders of the House led by Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano to appeal to the IATF and the concerned agencies to lift restrictions on repatriation flights and to arrange for additional transportation for the stranded migrant workers.
No breakdown of the 167,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) was given by the committee.
Defensor issued the call after leading Friday’s committee hearing, which sought to look into problems plaguing the return of displaced and distressed migrant workers.
During the hearing, lawmakers clarified from IATF and CAAP officials reports that they have set a cap of 1,000 persons on the number of migrant workers and other overseas Filipinos that could be flown home.
The limit was imposed supposedly after about 24,000 returnees were stranded in Metro Manila three weeks ago.
“Now that the 24,000 have been transported to the provinces upon orders from President Duterte, it’s time for the IATF and the Caap to scrap their repatriation limit to allow for more workers to finally be flown home, Defensor said.
Priority will be given to Filipino migrants who have purchased plane tickets on their own, or with the help of their employers and the government.
“There are thousands of them in the Middle East, particularly in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Qatar,” he said.
However, these migrant workers have not been allowed to board commercial flights due to the IATF prohibition, the lawmaker said.
“With go signal from the IATF and CAAP for their flights, these workers can already be home in days,” Defensor said. (Source: INQUIRER.net)