MANILA, July 18 (Mabuhay) — At least 50,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are expected to be repatriated by the end of July due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the global economy, a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) official said Friday.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Arriola made the announcement before the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs as he appealed for Congress’ funding support, citing the increased expenses of the department amid its repatriation efforts.

Arriola said that of the over 86,000 OFWs repatriated by the DFA, 21,171 were repatriated in July alone.

“We are hoping to bring home 50,557 by the end of the month,” Arriola said.

Of the over 21,000 repatriated in July, 14,380 were from the Middle East. The rest were from Asia and the Pacific (2,934), Americas (2,359), Europe (1,478) and Africa (20).

Arriola said repatriation efforts have a hefty price tag, given the restriction of flights amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

She cited that for July alone, the DFA has endorsed the following repatriation flights in Middle Eastern countries: 53 flights from United Arab Emirates, 21 flights from Qatar and 42 flights in Saudi Arabia.

“We have P232 million [left], and that its enough until end of August. Our spending increased by 72.5%,” Arriola said.

“The problem with Qatar is the ticket is very expensive. For commercial flights, it should be Qatar Airways. Iyong mga kababayan po nating may dati ng ticket, hindi po mairebook kasi wala nga pong commercial flights,” she added.

Likewise, Arriola said that while there are around 167,000 OFWs needing repatriation, that number is not yet final.

“We have OFWs in Uzbekistan needing repatriation, and unfortunately we do not have an honorary consul and embassy there, so our embassy in Tehran, Iran will be mounting a very big repatriation effort to get them home,” Arriola said.

Later in the hearing, Philippine Ambassador Saudi Arabia Adnan Alonto said that over 10,000 OFWs in Jeddah also need repatriation assistance.

“We have 10,151 OFWs in Jeddah needing assistance. They have exit visas, but they have no capacity to pay for their tickets,” Alonto said.

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