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UAE, PH fortify relations through solidarity

The UAE and the Philippines have shown their strong relationship amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, with both countries continuously engaging in their active cooperation in several initiatives to help the Filipino community in these trying times.
Recently, Philippine Ambassador to the UAE H.E. Hjayceelyn Quintana commended the UAE’s comprehensive measures to ensure safety against COVID-19.
Amb. Quintana noted that the country’s comprehensive testing across all emirates has already progressed to over a million of its citizens and residents, which makes for over 10% of the total population.
“I would like to connect that with what UAE is doing as a whole because it’s really amazing that it is able to do a lot of testing. It’s a very comprehensive kind of screening where they have reached a million mark. It’s amazing when you can do screening for almost 10% of the population of the UAE,” added Quintana.
In addition, during her visit at the newly opened mass testing site launched by Abu Dhabi Health Services Company (SEHA), Amb. Quintana lauded the UAE government’s organized and systematic process as she personally observed how individuals get tested.
“I have seen how organized it is. It was explained to me that it takes a very short time to get yourself tested and all the safety precautions are in place. The amazing thing is that it is accessible to all people, no matter what nationality. Anyone who wants to have a test can have an appointment and they will be served,” said Quintana.
Philippine Consul General for Dubai and the Northern Emirates H.E. Paul Raymund Cortes, meanwhile, shared that entities including the Dubai Police, Emirates Red Crescent, Filipino community groups, along with private entities, have all been instrumental in collaboration with the Consulate and the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and the office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to ensure that Filipinos get the assistance they need in kind.
ConGen Cortes recalled that among the first to provide assistance was Dubai Police, who gave out food and meal assistance when Dubai was in a 24-hour lockdown.
Nagkaroon kami ng parang understanding na kung mayroong mga kababayan na lumalapit sa konsulada asking for food or meals eh binibigyan po natin iyong mga listahan na iyan at ibinibigay natin sa Dubai Police para bigyan sila ng mga meals, ito po ay during the lockdown kung saan talaga naging 24 hour na walang labaspasok sa kanilang mga bahay,” said Cortes.
In conjunction with this initiative, Cortes furthered that the Emirates Red Crescent is continuously supporting those who are in need of necessities: “Nagkaroon din ng maraming initiative ang Emirates Red Crescent kung saan nagbibigay din sila ng mga free meals and necessities hindi lang sa mga Filipino, pero sa lahat ng mga taong nangangailangan ng tulong.”
Fostering solidarity
H.E. Cortes stressed that the spirit of bayanihan continues to spread in the UAE, with Filipinos and other residents coming together to help cushion the impact of the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.
The Philippine Consul General in Dubai also lauded the initiative he has seen among Filipino community groups who have been proactively engaging with their compatriots in their time of need.
Malakas din po ang bayanihan aspect ng mga Filipino community dito kung saan iyong mga various organization, mga various committee ay naghe-help at nagbibigay ng mga grocery para mga sa mga humihingi ng tulong,” said Cortes.
Cortes shared that the POLO-OWWA, apart from the ongoing DOLE-AKAP Program, has also provided free groceries: “At the same time din po, nandito rin ho iyong programa ng ating POLO o kaya iyong Philippine Overseas Labor Office natin at saka ang OWWA natin kung saan nagbibigay din sila ng mga free groceries sa mga kababayan natin.”
Cortes said that the consulate ensures that all Filipinos who need help in kind will be provided for during their stay here in the country, with the help of everyone in the country.
“So, lahat po ito ay nagkakaroon ng tulungtulong under the one-country team approach ng konsulado kung saan mino-monitor po natin lahat ng mga kababayan natin at mga efforts ng mga attached agencies natin para mabigyan natin ng tulong iyong mga humihingi,” said Cortes.
Helping OFWs go home
The UAE has also made it possible for several Filipinos to go back to the Philippines amid the pandemic, expediting the process to help them reunite with their families.
Quintana thanked the extensive efforts of the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MoFAIC) in assisting the country for the repatriation process.
“I very much appreciate the assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in terms of the repatriation of our Filipino nationals. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been very proactive in helping us get the necessary clearances and get to speed up the process so that our stranded nationals or those wanting to go back to the Philippines are able to be assisted in a quick manner. The doors of the Ministry are open and I felt that they are really in a very strong collaboration with the Embassy in making these things as efficient as possible,” said Quintana.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Consulate in Dubai has expressed its readiness to fly home over 1,500 Filipinos who have signed up for free repatriation to the Philippines.
The Consulate will be prioritizing those who have a valid tourist or visit visa, seeing that these Filipinos have no need for any further clerances from local government authorities.
Ang uunahin natin ay natin iyong mga tourist at may valid tourist o kaya ay visit visa kasi ito po iyong mga hindi nangangailangan ng extra clearance para makauwi,” said Cortes during the Laging Handa press briefing with Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Martin Andanar and Undersecretary Rocky Ignacio.
Cortes recalled that these Filipinos in the list were those who expressed their intentions to head back home for good when the consulate released an advisory last April. However, he stressed that many are currently employed in the UAE and under the law, those who are currently employed should have their tickets paid for by their employers: “In our advisory, kung mayroon silang employment dito, ibig sabihin may employer pa sila, under UAE Law kasi dapat po iyong employer ho ang magpadala sa kanila back home.”
He added that since the UAE has extended the validity of all tourists and visitors till the end of the year, several Filipinos who have earlier expressed their interest to head home are planning to stay in the UAE to see if they can still find opportunities.
“So, ang mga pinrocess po muna namin iyong mga tourist and working visas pero mayroon din ho kasing panukala iyong gobyerno dito na ang mga tourist at visit visas eh extended all the way until the end of 2020 iyong validity. So ibig sabihin, puwede pa silang mag-stay dito hanggang end of the year. And para sa maraming mga kababayan natin, many are also taking na to stay a little bit longer and trying to find out kung ano pang puwede pang mangyari in the next couple of months, at least nandito sila,” he said.
The Philippine Consul General then reiterated the Philippine government’s commitment to fly Filipinos home as their tickets will be paid for to ensure that they get home safely.
“Pero mayroon din naman mga gusto nang umuwi talaga, at iyon ay pinagtutukan namin po ng pansin kasi once na mabili po iyong ticket nila at once na masabi they are interested in going home, bibilhin na po natin iyong ticket nila, gobyerno po iyan, Philippine government ang magbabayad po niyan para
makauwi na po sila. Pero dapat sure ho sila na uuwi kasi hindi na puwede irebook iyong mga ito,” added Cortes.
Cortes then stated that officials in Dubai are just waiting for Philippine authorities to resume flight operations so that they can send these Filipinos back home.
“So, as soon as mag-resume ho iyong mga flights natin eh inaayos po natin iyong mga repatriation nila together with our Office of Migrant Workers Affairs (OMWA) sa DFA, at the same time para mai-arrange po natin iyong mga quarantine facilities nila back home,” said Cortes.
The valiance of OFW frontliners
The Philippine Ambassador also shared words of gratitude for all Filipino frontliners whose work in the UAE is felt with the continuous rise in the number of recoveries of expats and citizens from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
“We are very proud of you. You have shown remarkable courage and selflessness when you come every day to help in fighting the pandemic. I will pray for your safety and also that of your families,” said Quintana.
‘Shukran, UAE’
The recent assistance of the UAE to the frontliners back to the Philippines has been extremely well-received by the Filipino community.
The Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) thanked the country for their aid plane sent during the time of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic—which contained seven metric tons of medical supplies that is estimated to help 7,000 Filipino health workers.
In DFA’s official post on Twitter, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. personally received the boxes from UAE Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Amb. Hamad Saeed Al Zaabi, praising the UAE for the country’s sincere heart of giving and love for humanity.
“#ThankYou, UAE, for taking care of Filipinos, both in UAE & the PH.  (Shukran),FM Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. UAE is a true model of generosity & humanitarian assistance,” said DFA in their tweet.
Witnessing the ceremonial turnover as well were Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Chief Implementer of the Philippines’ Declared National Policy Against COVID-19, and Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
Earlier, Quintana thanked the UAE government for showcasing genuine friendship and concern by providing supplies that the country needs at the moment.
“This medical assistance in the time of COVID-19 is only the latest of numerous instances in which the UAE has come to the aid of the Filipino people,” said Quintana.

Staff Report

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