MANILA – Noel Yee, 36, is a seafarer from Davao City who is among the 8,500 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are billeted in the quarantine facilities of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA). He arrived in Manila in the middle of April onboard an international cruise ship where he worked as chef after several weeks of self-quarantine overseas.
Noel has two small children and he looks forward to seeing his family soon when his swab test result will be out as promised by OWWA. Noel may soon be reunited with his family in the province but his future is bleak as the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis has literally devastated the global maritime industry.
The predicament of Noel is no different from thousands of seafarers who have come home because of the pandemic. A report from Al Jazeera says “more than 20,000 Filipino who work on ship have been repatriated while thousands more remain stranded on board, after losing their jobs.”
The OWWA earlier said they are expecting between 20,000-42,000 OFWs and overseas Filipinos (OFs) to come home soon that may overwhelm the country’s medical system as they all require to undergo quarantine and testing protocols for Covid-19 infection. The money normally remitted by OFWs and OFs to the country per year account to about 10 percent of its gross domestic product.
Noel and 20,000 other seafarers in the country will add up to the millions of workers in the country who have no work after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III disclosed during the virtual session of the senate, Wednesday, that up to five million workers would be out of job because of the pandemic. But Senator Cynthia Villar made her own estimate that the number of unemployed workers would even reach up to 7.5 million. She also asked the Department of Labor and Employment to formulate a comprehensive stimulus plan to cushion the effect of Covid-19 to Filipino workers soonest.