More than 700,000 OFWs repatriated amid COVID pandemic

Zandro Ochona, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2021 06:54 PM

MANILA - A total of 704,738 overseas Filipino workers have been repatriated by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, an official said on Friday.

DOLE Information and Publication Service Dir. Rolly Francia said these are OFWs who have returned to their families after undergoing swab testing and quarantine protocols by the department and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Francia said continuing repatriation of other OFWs is ongoing.

Before the pandemic, there were 34,180 OFWs in Macau but the numbers went down in July 2021 to 28,639, according to the Philippine Overseas and Labor Office.

”Marami na rin po tayong napa-uwi through our arranged repatriation flights. Umabot na po ng 3,951 as of September 22. Twenty-three flights na po ang nai-arrange namin kasi since March 2020, cancelled na po ang commercial flights to Macau,” said Labor Attaché Ma. Nena German.

(We were able to send home many OFWs through our arranged repatriation flights. We've reached 3,951 as of September 22. We have arranged 23 flights because commercial flights to Macau have been cancelled since March 2020.)

Majority of Filipinos working there are from the tourism sector particularly in hotels, casino, and restaurants. There are Filipino household service workers as well.

German also said the tourism arrivals in Macau reached 40 million a year before the pandemic or around 3.5 million every month.

”Nung nangyari po yung COVID, especially nung 2nd quarter nagmistulang ghost town po yung Macau. Yung 3.5 million na arrivals in a month, nung April 2020 naging 11,000 na lang po siya so the effect on the economy of Macau was so massive,” said German.

(When COVID struck, especially during the 2nd quarter, Macau looked like a ghost town. The 3.5 million arrivals in a month was reduced to 11,000 in April 2020 so the effect on the economy of Macau was so massive.)

This resulted in the termination of work of many OFWs and the stoppage of worker deployment there from all the countries.

”Hanggang hindi po nakaka-recover yung economy, the uncertainty clouding the Macau economy, economic recovery is always anchored on the pandemic situation and the same holds true doon po sa if we will be allowed to deploy again sa Macau kasi sa ngayon po kasi wala,” said German.

Many overseas Filipino workers continue to lose their jobs.

“Based on the statistics we get from the government, kaya nga po mayroon tayong repatriation flights pa rin is, on the average 350 po na Filipinos ang nawawalan ng trabaho sa Macau, voluntary or involuntary like termination of employment kasi nga po as I’ve mention earlier, hindi pa bumabalik talaga yung sigla ng economy because yung tourist arrivals napakababa pa rin,” said German.

(Based on the statistics we get from the government, that's why we have repatriation flights, on the average 350 Filipinos lose their jobs in Macau either voluntary or involuntary, like termination of employment because the economy has yet to recover and and tourist arrivals is still low.)

The labor attaché advises Filipinos who lost their jobs in Macau to update their skillset while waiting for tourism to resume in the Chinese territory.

German however said several big hotels and casinos there continued their expansion and may soon seek Filipino workers again as job orders are coming in.

"Hindi kasi tayo nakakapagdeploy from the Philippines because of the travel restrictions imposed by the Macau government. So we really have to wait for situation to normalize and we also have to take into consideration na medyo mataas yung cases from the Philippines, takot po ang Macau na makapasok yung COVID,” said German.

(The Philippines has yet to resume deployment because of travel restrictions imposed by the Macau government. So we really have to wait for situations to normalize and we also have to take into consideration that cases from the Philippines are increasing.)
Since the start of the pandemic, 63 COVID-19 cases were recorded in Macau, majority of which were from foreigners, and 3 of these were Filipinos, according to the Filipino labor official there.

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