The Philippine envoy to the UAE has expressed her confidence that the UAE government would always put the health safety of all its citizens and residents, including the overseas Filipino workers (OFW), as its top priority.
H.E. Hjayceelyn Quintana said in a virtual presser titled ‘OFW Town Hall’ on Friday, November 27, 2020, that the Filipinos are the third largest single nationality in the UAE, reason that they are valued as a strong contributor not only to the economy of the Gulf state but also to vital sectors.
She said: “The Filipinos are the third largest community in the UAE, hindi lang sa ekonomiya, pati na sa iba’t ibang mga mahahalagang sector tulad ng healthcare.
“Maraami sa ating mga kababayan ang tumulong at nagvolunteer sa COVID-19 trials dito at makakaasa tayo na talagang mauuna ‘yung mga vulnerable sectors dito sa UAE, whether citizen man o expat.”
When asked by Department of Foreign affairs Usec for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola and Usec for Strategic Communications Ernesto Abella about the UAE’s general state of health, the ambassador lauded the country’s strategic measures in place, which continues to bring positive developments.
“Parang bumabalik na sa pre-COVID-19. The UAE government is doing a very good job of managing this pandemic. One area that they are doing very well is the testing… They already tested 16 million people—almost double their population,” she said.
Quintana also reported that there is no more backlog in terms of Filipinos for urgent repatriation in the UAE. There were few who were not able to fly home due to various problems including their documents, but their concerns are being taken care of by the embassy and consulate in the UAE.
Meanwhile, the forum also touched on OFW debts, which according to Ericson Reyes, president of UAE-based organization the Filipino Social Club, became more evident during the pandemic. There were a number of OFWs who could not rise above debts, he said, as they also lost jobs.
Quintana said, “Hindi man pinansyal, ang embahada at konsulado ay laging handang tumulong sa pamamagitan ng ating mga legal retainers. Tumutulong tayo sa negotiation para mabawasan o mapababa ang kanilang utang.”
Arriola underlined that the DFA needs to prioritize the repatriation and other COVID-related concerns of OFWs with the limited budget that they have.
Quintana, meanwhile, lauded the way OFWs in the UAE manage to navigate the impact of the pandemic, which undeniably has cost jobs and livelihood. Despite this, she said, “I’m so proud of the Filipinos in the UAE because they have been very mature [as to how] they handle the impact of this pandemic.
“Marami kasi dito ang may mga pamilya na dito na rin nakatira… At saka ang mga Filipino talaga palakaibigan, so nakakatulong ‘yung bilang support system.”