(File photo)

MANILA – Over 400,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic have so far been repatriated to the country, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said on Wednesday.

“As of today, 420,000 we were able to send back to the country. We have some 200,000 left. There are those who signify that they do not want to come home and we understand them,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a virtual briefing.

Bello added that they expect around 60,000 more OFWs to come home this year.

Asked why some OFWs opted not to return home, Bello said some countries have an unemployment insurance program that also covers displaced migrant workers while others have already rolled out their vaccination program against the Covid-19.

“The benefits of insurance in some European countries will last for one year. So, even if they have been displaced they have benefits under the unemployment insurance. So, they did not manifest intention to come home,” he said. “Many of them are from the Middle East since they have been vaccinated.”

Meanwhile, Bello said there are still enough funds for the repatriation of displaced OFWs.

“The President has given us PHP5 billion. We have not spent it all,” he said.

Bello said returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will only stay in quarantine facilities in Metro Manila for only five days and would be endorsed to their respective local government units (LGU) once they test negative for Covid-19 to undergo an additional nine days of quarantine.

“But, when you arrived at your LGU destination, you will be quarantined for nine days, it should be 14 days. It was divided, five days in Metro Manila. Swabbing after five days, if negative, you are allowed to go to your final destination. After that 14 days, you are allowed...free to go to where you want,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.

Bello, meanwhile, assure that there are enough facilities to accommodate the arriving OFWs.

“We can accommodate them. There’s no problem regarding quarantine accommodation. Even when the quarantine period is 14 days we have sufficient quarantine accommodation," he said.

On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved the new testing protocol where travelers entering the Philippines would be required to undergo reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing five days after their arrival in the country starting Feb. 1. (PNA)