Rescue mission for stranded OFWs needed

The impact of the Covid 19 pandemic is making the lives of overseas Filipino workers more miserable

Not only has the pandemic caused many of them to lose their jobs in foreign lands; quite a number of them are distressed even more because they could not get a flight home and be reunited with their families in these uncertain times.

This is what I gathered last night from Saudi-based OFW Roi Gonzales in an interview on my YouTube livestream. His contract expired last June 4. HIs employer booked him for a flight home originally scheduled on August 4. However, flight cancellations pushed his scheduled return back several times now. And there is nothing definite about when he could get reunited with his family.

Gonzales is fortunate because his employer continues to provide him free housing and food. His biggest worry is that the last of his earnings have been sent home, and he has no more means to feed his family if his plight drags on. But there are thousands of others in Riyadh who are being housed in temporary quarters provided by the Philippine government in less comfortable conditions. The POLO-OWWA is feeling the pressure as every day, more Filipinos who have lost their jobs queue at the Embassy to ask for help.

The problem is that Philippine Airlines has been forced to cancel its flights because of the erratic behavior of the pandemic. Sudden spikes in Covid 19 cases in Saudi Arabia lead to abrupt changes in schedules, leaving OFWs who show up again and again even as chance passengers frustrated.

There are other airlines that continue flying, I learned. Gulf Air was one of the airlines mentioned by a viewer. Hence, the idea of chartering special flights becomes the most plausible option for the Philippine government. Make an inventory of the stranded Filipinos not only in Saudi Arabia but also in the rest of the Middle East so that plans can be made to fly them home in a series of chartered flights.

This can be a modern-day version of Noah’s Ark. This might cost more than usual repatriation, but I am sure President Duterte will not spare any expense to end the misery of our countrymen abroad. Of course, chartered flights are feasible only for places where there are hundreds or thousands of stranded Filipinos. The pandemic has forced imposed tremendous burdens on everybody. I am sure President Duterte will find a solution to this problem.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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