The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), through the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs (OUMWA), added in its total of repatriation activities via chartered flights the arrival of 360 distressed overseas Filipinos from the United Arab Emirates last September 16.
Upon arrival, the group onboard a Philippines Airlines flight PR 8659 was assisted by DFA ground personnel as well as other members of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport One-Stop-Shop.
The flight is the fifteenth (15) chartered flight mounted by the DFA from UAE alone since June 2021. Like in the previous flights, joint efforts of OUMWA’s special repatriation unit, Middle East desk, airport assistance group, the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai were needed to successfully conclude this third and final chartered flight this September.
“Since February 2020 start of the pandemic, the Department has been out there, working hard at the frontlines. We are out there to ensure that our distressed kababayans from all over the world come home to their families,” DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Y. Arriola said in a statement.
“The chartered repatriation flights launched by the Department are clear and concrete efforts on the part of the national government to fulfill its mandate and promise not to leave anyone behind,” added the undersecretary.
Since the first Wuhan flight in February 2020, the DFA mounted 105 chartered flights paid for by its assistance to nationals fund. Seven of these were sweeper or cross-country flights. KSA, UAE, Qatar, Kuwait and Lebanon combine for 63 flights.
As of 15 September 2021, the DFA has facilitated the repatriation of some 421,676 overseas Filipinos, 316,069 of which are land-based, while 105,607 are sea-based.
The DFA was also instrumental in the signing of the Joint Circular on the Philippine Green Lane for Seafarers (Joint Circular No. 01, Series of 2020, 02 July 2020) that outlines the minimum standards and procedures to be observed by entities involved in facilitating travel for ship crew changes and repatriation. It also recognizes seafarers as key essential workers during this pandemic.
“The Department continues its repatriation efforts in various avenues including endorsements of Bayanihan Flights, and funding individual or group repatriations. The DFA remains an integral part of the One-Country Team Approach (OCTA) of the government in addressing the current situation,” said Assistant Secretary Enrico T. Fos.
Following domestic health and safety protocols, all passengers were tested and were required to present negative results in the RT-PCR COVID-19 test at least forty-eight (48) hours prior to their departure from UAE. The repatriates will also undergo facility-based quarantine provided by the Philippine government and will be subjected to further RT-PCR Testing for COVID-19.