The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is in the process of securing clearances and permits for disembarkation to facilitate the repatriation of Filipinos onboard the COVID-19-hit Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan.
In line with this, the Philippine government is also working with the Japan Self Defense Forces in arranging for the land transfer of the repatriates from Yokohama Port to Haneda where the chartered flight will take off.
DFA to Secure Clearances, Permits for Disembarkation of Filipinos from Diamond Princess
In an update shared by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Sunday, the Filipinos on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Japan will be repatriated on Tuesday, as shared in a report by GMA News Online.
The DFA reported that it has been working closely with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare to ensure the completion of the laboratory testing of all the Filipinos on board the ship in compliance with the established Japanese quarantine protocols in time for the repatriation date [Tuesday].
In an update from the Department of Health last Saturday (Feb 22), the repatriation of the Filipinos, supposed to be done on Sunday, will be postponed “to allow Japanese health authorities to complete the laboratory testing of the 400-plus Filipino crew members aboard the ship and comply with the established protocols.”
The repatriation date, as shared by Secretary Locsin, was announced despite a report from Agence France-Presse saying Japan revealed that 23 passengers mistakenly left the ship before testing.
At least 400 crew members and passengers of the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Yokohama, Japan will return home in the coming week according to the foreign affairs department.
The incoming batch of Filipinos scheduled to return home on Tuesday will be the largest number of Filipinos to be repatriated by the Philippine government from a COVID-19-affected area.
The first batch was composed of 30 Filipinos from Wuhan, China — the epicenter of the virus — who finished their 14-day quarantine at New Clark City on Saturday.
In a statement, the DFA explained that the Filipinos from the cruise ship are to be temporarily housed at the Athletes’ Village in New Clark City under the full medical attention of health professionals from the DOH.
The MV Diamond Princess has the highest number of COVID-19 cases outside of China.
Upon their return to Manila, a team of health professionals from the DOH will provide immediate medical assistance if needed, the DFA noted.
Moreover, repatriates will also be provided with food, medicine, masks, and other supplies.
In the latest update from the DFA, a total of 49 Filipinos have tested positive for COVID-19, and two have already been discharged from the hospital. Five more are waiting to be discharged in the coming week according to the department.
Meanwhile, a labor group on Saturday called for proper compensation and benefits to hundreds of Filipino workers of the M/V Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan who will be repatriated next week.
In a statement, Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) president Raymond Mendoza shared: “We urge the shipowners, cruise operators, and its local manning agency here in the country to be fair and just with their workers. We call on them to be more transparent and forthright in terms of their obligations to the Filipino crew particularly those who were infected while working onboard and exposed to the deadly virus and with those who were exposed to the risk and subjected to quarantine in Yokohama and in New Clark City.”
“Aside from two-month paid time off, the ship operators promised to provide extra pay if the crew decides to return to work, pay all expenses incurred during the quarantine period onboard, pay for flights returning home and new employment contract. However, there was no mention if these are applicable to those infected and to those uninfected crew,” he added.
Because of this, Mendoza also urged the companies to clarify who is covered by the abovementioned benefits.
Citing general labor standards and occupational safety and health standards for sea-based workers, Mendoza explained that the cruise ship owners should pay the unexpired and unfinished employment contracts of both who were infected and uninfected crew.