Plans underway for repatriation of OFWs in India after travel ban - PH envoy

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) — The Philippine Embassy in New Delhi, India assured Filipinos who want to return back home they will be assisted as soon as the travel ban has been lifted.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' The Source on Tuesday, Ambassador Ramon Bagatsing Jr. said up to 70 Filipinos to date have signified their interest to go back to the Philippines. Over 1,200 documented OFWs are currently residing in India.

"Alam naman nating meron tayong travel ban (We already know about the current travel ban) and other countries also issued travel bans on India so as soon as this travel ban is lifted, we will have to make plans on how we can repatriate some of our Filipinos who want to go home and at the soonest possible time," Bagatsing said.

"May mga nag-signify na gusto nang umuwi and emailed us that they want to join," he added.

[Translation: Some have already signified their interest and emailed us that they want to join.]

The envoy said that apart from the potential resumption of commercial flights, the embassy is also considering chartering flights to pick up OFWs.

The plan will be concretized as soon as travel restrictions are eased, but he noted that they have established strong lines of communication with the Filipino community, especially those in need of help.

COVID-hit Filipinos in India hit 73

According to Bagatsing, at least 73 Filipinos in India have contracted COVID-19. Two others have already succumbed to the disease.

"Right now, the employers are taking care of their remains," he said. "We’re hoping that when the time comes, we can bring back the remains to the Philippines and to their families because this virus has been so deadly."

Bagatsing said he and some OFWs previously met with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Sarah Arriola to tackle the needs of Filipinos amid the surge in cases in India.

"Maganda naman ang sinabi ng DFA na (We welcome what the DFA relayed to us that) whatever assistance they can provide us, medical funding, they will do so," he said. "We’re just waiting for the mechanics and details on how we can implement it."

India is currently struggling to contain the outbreak as it recorded nearly 370,000 new COVID-19 cases as of Monday, edging closer to a nationwide tally of 20 million cases.

The Philippines has banned the entry of travelers from India as well as those with recent travel history to the South Asian country from April 29 to May 14.