Philippines Asks Citizens to Delay Return as Funds Dry Up

The Philippines is asking its workers abroad to delay their return to the nation, as coronavirus infections remain elevated and funds for quarantine hotels run low.

The budget for returning migrant workers’ isolation facilities will be used up by next month, said Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Hans Cacdac, who advised Filipinos to postpone non-essential trips back home.

“It’s also for their protection. We still have a surge in cases,” Cacdac said at a virtual briefing Wednesday. The government is finding ways to address the fund shortage, he said.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello proposed during a televised Cabinet meeting on Wednesday that the 14-day quarantine for returning workers be shortened. President Rodrigo Duterte however said he’s “not comfortable” with easing quarantine rules after hearing the advice of medical experts.

The Philippines has the highest number of active coronavirus cases in Southeast Asia, with the surge in infections overwhelming hospitals and dimming economic outlook. The government has repatriated more than 500,000 displaced migrant workers amid the pandemic, labor department data show.

Migrant workers’ remittances will continue to be a steady source of foreign exchange for the Philippines, central bank Governor Benjamin Diokno said separately Wednesday. Longer-term prospect of overseas employment remains high, he said.

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