The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said Tuesday some 16,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) would return to the Philippines this month.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said only 16,769 out of the expected 42,000 returning OFWs completed the necessary paperwork to return to the country.

“Why [only 16,679]? Kasi sila lang ang nakakumpleto ng mga papeles: `yung tinatawag nilang exit visa, `yung kanilang clearances from their employers at siyempre, `yung ticket nila pauwi,” Bello explained during a televised Palace briefing.

Of the 16,000, over 1,000 have returned to the country, Bello said.

Covid-19 czar Carlito Galvez Jr. previously said the government might be “overwhelmed” by the number of returning OFWs in the coming months as quarantine facilities in Metro Manila were limited and the process of sending home OFWs, including mandatory testing and quarantine, was slow.

DOLE reported on Monday that it had sent home 25,002 OFWs stranded in quarantine facilities after President Rodrigo told officials to speed up the process.

Last May 31, DOLE reported that 98,615 OFWs were stranded abroad, while 36,625 have been repatriated since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.