Stranded On Ships, 200,000 Seafarers In Virus Limbo

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 14) — With reports of seafarers stuck on ships as the COVID-19 pandemic led to the closure of borders, President Rodrigo Duterte directed on Monday the Department of Foreign Affairs to help Filipinos left stranded in other nations.

In his virtual address to the nation on Monday night, the President asked the department's commercial, police, and military attachés across the globe to identify stranded Filipino nationals both in lands and at seas, and to conduct a report in their respective areas of responsibility.

"In the so many places around the world where Filipinos are working, some are still in the limbo, hindi nila alam kung saan sila pupunta, and kung makauwi pa ba sila o hindi (they don't know where they're headed, and whether or not they'll be able to go home)" Duterte said.

Several Filipino seafarers in particular, especially those in cargo ships, are forced to stay in their vessels, unable to dock because of restrictions imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19, the President said.

"Nakakaawa (It's pitiful), a human being should never be a commodity that's just left behind to rot. These are human beings and Filipinos," he added, calling on the DFA to do "all [they] can" to help the affected Filipinos.

Meanwhile, in the same taped address, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana reported that over 200,000 overseas Filipino workers affected by COVID-19 have already been brought home since the onset of the pandemic.

He said that as of September 13, a total of 200,431 OFWs have been repatriated, while over 80,000 more are expected to arrive home before the year ends. He added that around 400 more OFWs stranded in Sabah are scheduled to fly home next Monday.

To date, figures from the DFA showed that a total of 10,314 overseas Filipinos in 76 countries have been infected with the coronavirus, of which 6,554 have recovered and 772 have died.

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