The number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in various parts of the globe has swelled to nearly 100,000, the Department of Labor and Employee (DOLE) said Sunday.
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Citing reports from the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in 40 foreign posts, the DOLE command center in Manila recorded a total of 98,615 stranded workers as of Friday, May 29.
The OFWs are those affected by lockdowns in their respective host countries, distressed and seeking repatriation, of those whose work contracts have expired but cannot return to the Philippines due to the absence of commercial flights.
Of the total stranded OFWs, 83,483 are in the Middle East, 12,050 are in Europe and America, and 3,082 in Asia.
Most OFWs from the Middle East are land-based totaling 83,380 while those in Europe-Americas are mostly sea-based workers numbering 11,372. In Asia, 2,110 are land-based workers.
Of the total stranded OFWs, about 19,631 have unfinished contracts or are distressed and need repatriation in the coming weeks.
The POLOs have so far recorded the repatriation of 36,625 OFWs since the outbreak of the global pandemic.
Meanwhile, the DOLE command center also reported that all of the more than 24,000 OFWs who were stranded in various quarantine facilities would have been transported to their provinces by Sunday.
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Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III last week ordered the activation of the command center to monitor and direct actions on the repatriation, assistance, reintegration and deployment of OFWs, and prevent a repeat of the disorderly process in dealing with returning OFWs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
As of Sunday noon, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said 23,472 OFWs had embarked for their safe homecoming with their families. The clearances of 538 workers are still being awaited.
All transported OFWs were given clearances after undergoing Covid-19 tests following prolonged quarantine in government designated facilities.
OWWA had so far spent over P700 million for the repatriation, transport, accommodation and food of the more than 30,000 returning OFWs.
READ: Bello: Only 5k OFWs left out
House of Representatives’ Majority Leader and Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday said health workers and repatriated OFWs would be protected from all forms of discrimination as the House as is scheduled to approve this week an anti-discrimination bill on third and final reading.
“We recognize each person’s fundamental right to be free from discrimination in this time of COVID-19 pandemic. Equality should be observed at all times,” said Romualdez,who endorsed the measure for approval in plenary session on Tuesday.
The anti-discrimination bill prohibits physical, verbal, or psychological harassment against person who are declared confirmed, suspect, probable, and recovered cases of COVID-19, health care workers and service providers.
Under the bill, a person who commits harassment or assault will, upon conviction, be penalized by imprisonment of not less than one year but not more than 10 years or a fine of not less than P200,000 but to more than P1,000,000.
Those violating the measure on the grounds of stigmatization, failure to give assistance, and unlawful refusal to honor valid contracts, will be slapped a fine of not less than P50,000 but not more than P500,000 and/or imprisonment of not less than six months but not more than five years.