Sat. Mar 6th, 2021
OFWs waiting for repatriation home sleep on the sidewalks of NAIA Terminal 3. (Photo courtesy by ABS-CBN News)

MANILA – A panel at the House of Representatives is set to conduct on Friday a congressional inquiry into the issues concerning the repatriation of stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amid the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

The House committee on public accounts, chaired by Anakalusugan Rep. Mike Defensor, will conduct the investigation with invited officials from the Department of Labor and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Transportation, as well as some ambassadors assigned to the Middle East and OFW representatives.

“Consistent with the directive of Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano in the case of the social amelioration program, we want to look into the problems plaguing the repatriation of our workers overseas, who have lost their jobs due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and find solutions,” Defensor said. “We want the living as well as the dead repatriated as soon as possible. They have been stranded abroad for months.”

Defensor said some House leaders are puzzled as to why it is taking the concerned agencies so long to fly home stranded OFWs.

“We have thousands of them in Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East and Europe who have been waiting to return home since the coronavirus outbreak,” he said.

Defensor said his committee will try to identify the agencies’ problems in trying to get the OFWs home.

“Are there no planes that can be chartered to fly them? Are there no government planes or ships that could be used? Are there sufficient repatriation and related funds? These are some of the questions we want answered,” he added.

He noted that while many OFWs have been repatriated, “hundreds of them have become stranded in their own country” and have been forced to sleep at the airport or in areas near the airport while waiting for flights to their provinces.

The DOLE earlier reported that over 50,000 OFWs have been repatriated from May 15 to June 14, 2020.

Under the OFW Return Program, repatriated Filipinos are transported back to their home provinces via air, land and sea. (PNA)

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