The Philippines is an archipelagic country in South East Asia. Around 10 million Filipinos work abroad. Around 35k Filipinos have been repatriated since global lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak. Thousands have lost their jobs because of worldwide lockdown and there will be more as the lockdown continues. Around 370k Filipinos may no longer have jobs.
Over 13k overseas foreigners returned back to their homeland and around 21k work on cruise ships. About 90k people will return in the next 2 months. The next few days will see more repatriates from Japan, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Washington, Bahrain, South Korea, France, etc.
Along with job cuts, many also suffer from COVID. There are about 5576 Filipinos who are currently undertaking treatment for COVID in America, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and Asia Pacific Region. For most of them, the major concern is to survive the pandemic.
Mass repatriation of Filipinos from all over the world has put the government in a dilemma since quarantine and testing facilities have to be arranged for tens of thousands of them. The government also faces criticism as they fail in making policies to deal with the returning seafarers although the pandemic had struck months before.
In the maritime scenario, there are 23 vessels currently anchored in Manila Bay with each containing around 200 crew members. They are made to wait for weeks on ships as the authorities struggle to organize testing and quarantine facilities for them. Moreover there are hurdles like encoding errors, misplaced test results and shortage of test kits to be taken care of.
Despite the fact that the crew members keep in constant touch with their families on the mainland via the internet, enclosure within a small cabin for days results in mental anguish. Most of them got frustrated due to their never-ending quarantine and the cold approach of the authorities. They even compare the situation to a dreadful elimination process. Such situations highlight the need for emotional support.
Only those with negative results would be allowed to disembark. The crew members, most of them who underwent about 40 days of quarantine in the ship will have to quarantine themselves again in government facilities before they can go home. Each of the crew members is citizens and none can deny their rights to go home.
The future of Filipino seafarers is complex as there is uncertainty in the resuming shipping industry especially leisure cruises. Thus the country faces the risk of losing a major economic pillar and massive unemployment.
References: aljazeera.com | pna.gov.ph | Wikipedia/Philippines