Philippine Embassy-Abu Dhabi Consul Cynthia Pelayo speaks to one of the 325 repatriates.
Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter
Manila has resumed its government (taxpayers)-funded repatriation programme for distressed Filipinos in the UAE in connection with the consequences of the 16-month Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) global crisis.
Part of the “Bayanihan 2 (Unity/Cooperation) to Recover as One Act,” and mounted by the Department of Foreign Affairs-Manila (DFA-Manila), 325 Filipinos with 129 from Abu Dhabi and the Western Region as well as 196 from Dubai and the Northern Emirates, including the pregnant, children and burdened with long-time medical problems, are already billeted in COVID-19 quarantine hotels, awaiting the release of their Polymerase Chain Reaction tests, in Metro Manila.
They exited from the Dubai International Airport evening of June 16 (Wednesday) on board the Philippine national carrier, Philippine Air Lines flight 8659, after having been assisted through all the COVID-19 international travel health protocols by officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy-Abu Dhabi, Philippine Consulate General-Dubai, Philippine Overseas Labour Office/Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-Abu Dhabi, Philippine Overseas Labour Office/Overseas Workers Welfare-Dubai, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development. Their chartered repatriation was the first after a lull of about half-a-year due to travel restrictions and lockdowns as suggested to President Rodrigo Duterte by Manila’s Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, brought about by the surge of the more virulent forms of SARS-CoV2 and the unabated rise of cases particularly in the National Capital Region of Metro Manila.
The “Bayanihan 2 (Unity/Cooperation) to Recover as One Act,” also known as Republic Act 11519, was a legislative bill certified as urgent by President Duterte. It extended the availability of funds until
June 30, 2021 so that various public offices and agencies could continually pursue and carry out COVID-19 socio-economic counter-measures. Original allocation was Php165.5 billion (Dhs12,557,075,777.08). President Duterte signed it into law first week of Jan. 2021, after a bi-cameral enactment.
On June 4, Consul General in Dubai and the Northern Emirates Paul Raymund Cortes alerted the Batibot Press Club about the planned repatriation flights. Applicants in Abu Dhabi and the Western Region are advised to check on https://abudhabipe.dfa.gov.ph/atn-services which has a link for the repatriation programme requirements. Those in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah may email firstname.lastname@example.org.
In a consequent interview concerning Filipinos trapped in legal issues, Cortes said: “There would be no problem with regard to their application for repatriation as long as they are cleared by the courts and the Immigration.”
The first government (taxpayers)-funded COVID-19 repatriation programme was initiated by DFA-Manila on Feb. 9, 2020 for the Filipinos in Wuhan, China where the SARS-CoV2 originated. As of Dec. 31, 2020, the government office had facilitated the return of 327,511 from 90 countries, 231,537 (70.7 per cent) belonged to the land-based category as 95,974 (29.3 per cent) were mariners employed in more than 150 cruise ships, oil tankers and other bulk vessels forced to be on standby in the Carribean, Europe and North America.
Over in the UAE, at least 60,000 documented and undocumented Filipinos (a number of whom with families) had been repatriated as of late last year. Philippine diplomatic and consular missions across the Middle East began working on the repatriation mechanics by April 2020.
DFA-Manila records revealed that of the 327,511 repatriates for the entire 2020, 228,893 (69.89 per cent) were from the Middle East; 36,868 (11.26 per cent), Asia and the Pacific; 30,971 (9.46 per cent), Americas; 28,909 (8.83 per cent), Europe; and 1,870 (0.57 per cent), Africa.
In November last year, from Dubai and the Northern Emirates, a total of 50,000 including their dependents went home.
Of the 50,000, 2,600 have availed of the repatriation programme covering free airline tickets courtesy of the Department of Foreign Affairs (Manila)-Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs.
Overseas Filipinos (OFs) including from the UAE and other parts of the Middle East have been noted to engage in real estate/property development investments back home.
Filipinos in the UAE continually learn to save and consider real estate and properties as prime investments, based on recent data from the Philippines’s home development mutual fund, popularly known as PagIBIG Fund.
Together with the other 14,617,850 paying members of Manila’s PagIBIG Home Development Mutual Fund (PagIBIG) across the globe, 72,150 paying members in the UAE were able to save and are therefore beneficiaries of the additional Php50.8 billion (Dhs3.61 billion/$983.11 million) resources in 2019.
The Philippine Overseas Labour Office in Dubai (POLODXB) will come up with an online system for the submission of documents required for the one-time Php10,000.00 ($200.00 or Dhs734.61) monetary assistance to all laid off overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah due to the pandemic.
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