ABOUT 10,000 foreign seafarers who were stranded for many weeks aboard cruise ships that anchored at the Manila Bay since April due the COVID-19 pandemic have been repatriated and sent home to their countries.
This was learned from Bureau of Immigration (BI) Seaport Operations Chief Alnazib Decampong, who said that as of August 19, a total of 9,854 alien seamen were already processed and cleared by BI boarding inspectors to leave the country.
The seafarers, he said, were immediately escorted by BI personnel to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) upon leaving their cruise ships so they could board their flights out of the country en route to their respective countries of destination.
The foreign crewmen were only allowed to disembark from their ships after they underwent RT-PCR swab tests by Philippine Coast Guard personnel and were found negative for the coronavirus.
Decampong also said that since April 2020, more than 19,300 Filipino seamen have already reunited with their families after being stranded aboard the vessels that were anchored at the Manila Bay.
“Like their foreign counterparts, these Pinoy seamen were also swab tested and declared to be free of the virus before they were cleared by our inspectors and sent off to their respective hometowns in Metro Manila and elsewhere throughout the country,” he said.
The BI official stressed that his office is strictly adhering to the guidelines imposed by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) on the conduct of COVID testing for all arriving and departing seafarers.
“We have to ensure that all these seamen will not endanger the health and safety of their loved ones when they come home and reunite with their families,” Decampong said.
Statistics showed that the 30,000 Filipino and foreign seafarers who were cleared by the BI were crew members of 57 cruise ships that anchored at the Manila Bay since April when the COVID-19 pandemic started.
“There are only four vessels remaining in the anchorage with only a few crewmen aboard who were left to maintain the ship before their outbound voyage,” Decampong reported.