DESPITE the easing of international travel restrictions this year,  the monthly deployment figures for land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are still distant from pre-pandemic levels.

Last Tuesday, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported it deployed an average of over 30,000 land-based OFWs per month this year.

This is still way below the average 126,413 monthly deployment figures in 2019, when POEA sent 1.51 million land-based OFWs abroad.

During the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, POEA’s preliminary data showed it was able to deploy an average of 91,753 land-based OFWs per month or a total of 1.10 million workers.

POEA Administrator Bernard P. Olalia, however, said they observed a significant improvement in the deployment of sea-based OFWs.

“For our sea-based sector, we were able to deploy 40,000 every month. This is the same figure prior to the pandemic,” Olalia said in a television interview last Tuesday.

In 2019, POEA was able to deploy 491,241 Filipino sailors, but this dropped to 293,748 last year as the pandemic disrupted the operations of many cruise ship lines worldwide.

He noted the recovery was fueled by the strong demand for migrant seafarers, particularly for  cargo vessels, transport vessels, and petroleum vessels, as well as the gradual resumption of the operation of the international cruise ship operations.

The same could not be said of the land-based sector, which is facing several challenges—topped by the country’s existing deployment cap for the deployment of health-care workers (HCW).

POEA limited the number of HCWs who may be deployed this year to just 6,500, to ensure the country will have enough health personnel for its Covid-19 response.

The restriction, however, does not cover HCWs who are under a government-to-government hiring scheme as well as those bound for the United Kingdom.

Olalia noted that HCWs are currently in demand in Europe and in the Middle East amid the ongoing Covid-19 crisis.

The government currently has no plans to lift the deployment cap in the near future.

Image courtesy of Nonie Reyes

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