Stranded seafarers from China back home

MANILA – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) welcomed home 16 stranded Filipino seafarers and three land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from China, who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport on Tuesday.

“Despite existing restrictions on the disembarkation of seafarers in China and the difficult conditions under which this special flight was mounted, the Department of Foreign Affairs remains committed to its promise of bringing our kabayan seafarers home. Our message to all OFWs is clear – whether you’re on land or at sea, the Philippine government, under the Duterte administration, will continue to prioritize your welfare and safety,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said in a news release.

Of the 16 seafarers, 11 were from Ocean Star 86 who had been stranded in Dongshan since March.

The other five were from M/V Maria P. who had been stranded in Ningde since July.

Both Chinese fishing vessels were affected by China’s “no disembarkation” policy as a precautionary measure due to the pandemic and the unavailability of commercial flights.

The seafarers who disembarked from the two vessels traveled by land for 1.5 hours and 4.5 hours to Xiamen, respectively.

Arriola added that the repatriation was a product of months of negotiation with the Chinese government.

She said the Philippine Consulate General in Xiamen and the Philippine Embassy in Beijing worked closely with the Chinese authorities to allow the disembarkation of seafarers and the mounting of the special flight.

Before their departure, the seafarers underwent reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction tests, and all were found negative of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

They also wore personal protective equipment as an added precaution.

Upon arrival, the seafarers were subjected to medical protocols required by the Department of Health.

Under the Omnibus Guidelines established by the Inter-Agency Task Force, they are also observing the mandatory quarantine.