Flight clearances, budget constraints delay OFWs from coming home

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 26) — Budget constraints and limited flight clearances turn out to be the major setbacks in flying overseas Filipino workers back home.

During a House hearing on government’s migration policy response to COVID-19, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Sarah Arriola aired concerns on the lack of flight clearances for charter flights and budget concerns regarding the repatriation of OFWs.

Arriola said that they are aiming to bring home 2,000 OFWs a day, but at the moment, the DFA is only allowed to charter flights every Monday, Thursday, and Saturday.

When asked during the hearing, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Deputy Director General for Operations Donaldo Mendoza denied that they limit the clearance given to charter flights.

“We only receive the requests here and process for flight clearances. We do not restrict and we do not disapprove anything,” he said.

Mendoza added that they only get recommendations from the DFA regarding charter flights, are only responsible for entry and exit permits.

On top of problems on clearances, Arriola also bared that the agency is now running low on funding as it has brought home a total of 56,280 OFWs as of Thursday.

“We just need more flight clearances... secondly, the problem is finances. A flight to the Middle East will cost around ₱12 to ₱13 million per plane.”

Arriola added that they only have around ₱329 million left of their ₱1 billion repatriation budget.

Mental health helplines

Due to the mental and emotional distress brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has established mental health helplines for OFWs both here in the country and abroad.

RELATED: DFA confirms OFW died by suicide while waiting for repatriation flight

OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac said they also partnered with the private sector including the Philippine Red Cross, Ateneo De Manila University’s UGAT Foundation, and the National Center for Mental Health to assist the distressed OFWs.

If you are in need of mental health support, please call the 24/7 National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline at (0917) 899-8727 or (02)7-989-8727 or 1553 (Landline-to-landline only) or Philippine Red Cross's 1158 helpline.