Thousands of Filipino overseas workers will be brought home, says Duterte

MANILA, Sept 23 (Mabuhay) — The Philippine government aim to continue to bring home thousands of Filipinos working abroad who have been affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, said President Rodrigo Duterte.

“The Philippine Government has embarked on an unprecedented repatriation program. More than 345,000 overseas Filipino workers needed to come home then.We have brought back half and are bringing back the rest,” said Duterte in his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly.

He proceeded to laud the efforts and integrity of Filipino migrant workers amid the pandemic.

“Mr. President: Filipino migrant workers have been devastated by the pandemic. Many have lost not only their livelihood, but also their health and lives as well. Yet they go on in the frontlines, healing, caring for others in the different parts of the world,” said Duterte.

The President also acknowledged the assistance extended by host countries in support of the repatriation program.

“We thank the countries that have provided Filipino migrants with residence permits, access to testing, treatment and related health services in this pandemic,” said Duterte, adding that seafarers who were stranded because of COVID-19 restrictions also made it back to their home provinces.

“We pioneered with the IMO (International Maritime Organization) the Green Lane for safe changes of seafaring crews,” he said.

“In these times, we need stronger cooperation in promoting and protecting the rights of migrants, regardless of their migrant status. We must all adhere to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Unless states include all migrants in their response to this pandemic, “no one among us is safe, until everyone is safe”, as the Secretary-General has said,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Philippines is willing to receive refugees or forcibly displaced people, including the Rohingyas, said Duterte.

“As I have said many times: The doors of the Philippines are open, as they have always been, to everyone fleeing for safety, such as the Rohingyas,” said Duterte.

“In the face of a mounting refugee crisis worldwide, let us work together towards ending the conflicts and conditions that force people to flee their homes,” he added.

The Rohingyas are Muslim people inhabiting western Myanmar and have been forced to leave their country.

According to the statistics posted on the website of the United Nations Refugee Agency, about 79.5 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 26 million refugees, around half of whom are under the age of 18.

The agency also says “there are also millions of stateless people, who have been denied a nationality and lack access to basic rights such as education, health care, employment and freedom of movement.”

Duterte also called for mutual understanding and tolerance.

“Mr. President: As our societies become more diverse yet interdependent, social cohesion issues come to the fore,” he said.

“Mutual understanding always accompanied by mutual tolerance between those of different faiths and cultures is the only foundation of societies at peace with itself and all others,” he added. (MNS)

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