OWWA starting to pay back balance owed to quarantine hotels

OWWA starting to pay back balance owed to quarantine hotels
This file photo shows a hotel room.
Pixabay / David Lee

MANILA, Philippines — The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said it has begun paying back hotels and other service providers that took part in the repatriation of overseas Filipinos amid the COVID-19 pandemic, such as those who arranged their meals and transportation.

“Nakapag-release tayo ng P1.2 billion kasi nakapag-bigay nga ng P1.7 billion ang DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac told ABS-CBN’s “Sakto” on Tuesday. 

(We have already released P1.2 billion because the DBM already gave us P1.7 billion.)

Earlier this month, the Philippine Hotel Owners Association said OWWA had P1.7 billion worth of unpaid quarantine hotel bills that accumulated. 

The OWWA chief said the next tranche of payments will be given “around April 1st” or just as the second quarter begins. 

“‘’Yung same weekend that they (PHOA) issued a press release, we assured them that tranches were coming in weeks. May lumabas na tranche na 1.74 billion po from DBM,” Cacdac said.

(On the same weekend that they (PHOA) issued a press release, we assured them that tranches were coming in weeks. A tranche worth P1.74 billion from [the] DBM has since been released.) 

More Filipinos home

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday said it brought home more Filipinos from Macau and Thailand last week. 

The Philippine Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand facilitated the repatriation flight of 53 overseas Filipinos from Thailand. The DFA said most of the OFWs were working in Thailand’s education and tourism industry, with their jobs affected by the pandemic. 

The group flew to Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, where another group of 142 Filipino nationals embarked on the same flight back to the Philippines. 

Since its first repatriation flight in April 2020, the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok has helped bring home 808 Filipinos. 

“The Embassy also facilitated commercial airlines’ applications with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging and Infectious Diseases (IATF-IED) for special flight permits and additional seat allocations to accommodate distressed Filipino travelers over the last two years of the pandemic,” the DFA said in a statement on Monday.

On the other hand, the Philippine Consulate General in the Macau Special Administration brought home 203 Filipinos on March 25. 

“The flight also brought home the remains of three Filipinos who died in Macau of non-COVID related causes,” the DFA said in a separate statement on Monday.

The DFA said it has now repatriated 5,761 Filipinos from Macau through 29 flights since early 2020. The Philippine Consulate General in Macau will continue its repatriation flights until the Macau government deems international commercial flights safe to operate.

No COVID-positive Filipinos in Shanghai

OWWA said it has not yet received reports of Filipino nationals who tested positive for COVID-19 in China, as the country faces yet another surge in coronavirus infections.

“Sa ngayon, wala namang nabalitaan na Pilipino na nag-positive at kung mayroon man, mapapagamot sila ng lokal na pamahalaan na libre,” OWWA’s Cacdac said.

(So far, we have not received reports of Filipinos testing positive and if there are any, the local government can provide treatment for free.)

On Tuesday, China logged 6,886 domestic COVID-19 infections, over half or 4,400 of which were detected in Shanghai. The city has since implemented a lockdown in Pudong district until Friday, before the rolling lockdown will be implemented in Puxi district.

Cacdac said OWWA is in contact with some affected musicians who temporarily lost their jobs due to the imposition of lockdowns.

“Kung merong gustong umuwi ay handa tayong tumulong sa kanilang pag-likas,” Cacdac said.

(If there is anyone who would want to go home, we are ready to help them with their evacuation.) 

OWWA said it is also working with the Philippine Consulate General in Shanghai, the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as the nearest Philippine Overseas Labor Office, which is in Hong Kong.  — Kaycee Valmonte with report from Agence France-Presse

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