A majority of the Filipino expatriates in the UAE are headed home for the festive season, despite the introduction of new restrictive travel measures and the devastation caused by Typhoon Rai.
Airline representatives and travel agents have said December is a peak season for expatriates to travel to the Philippines. A majority of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) travel home to celebrate Christmas and New Year with their loved ones.
While it was expected there would be a dip in demand for travel to the island country, due to the aftermath of Typhoon Rai and new restrictive travel measures introduced by the local government, scores of Filipino expatriates are headed home for the holidays.
New travel updates
Effective December 23, up to and including January 3, 2022, only Cebuano OFWs and returning Filipinos will be allowed to enter Cebu as per a directive from local authorities in the Philippines. Emirates shared the updated directions on its website. No other nationality is permitted to travel on these flights.
The decision by the Cebu provincial government was in response to brimming hotel occupancy rates from local bookings by residents who still do not have access to electricity and water after the onslaught of Typhoon Rai.
According to the most recent travel updates from Inter-Agency Task Force – Philippines (IATF), all fully vaccinated OFW arrivals into the Philippines must undergo mandatory hotel quarantine for three days until their RT-PCR results arrive.
“They will have to undergo home quarantine until their 10th day, with the date of arrival being the first day,” said the IATF.
Disruptions caused cancellations, stranded passengers
The recent disruptions caused several Dubai-Manila flight cancellations, a representative of Philippine Airlines (PAL) told Khaleej Times. The airline spokesperson said, “There were two PAL flight cancellations on December 17 and 19, respectively. It could’ve been due to the Typhon, and there is also a shortage of quarantine hotels in Manila, for example. There is a huge demand for hotel rooms from domestic tourists, leading to shortage.”
Commenting on the updates for Cebuano OFWs, the PIA official said, “Due to the current situation in Cebu, the local government issued a memorandum stating only local residents are allowed to enter Cebu. We have a scheduled flight on Sunday. However, we are awaiting a final decision from the management of PAL and local government on the status of the flight.” No updates regarding the PAL flight status were made available to Khaleej Times at the time of print.
The Cebu Airport suffered some damages as well. “There is an issue of not having enough hotel quarantine facilities as many locals affected by the typhoon are staying at hotels. There could be no availability for international arrivals,” she added.
“Last week, many transit passengers from Saudi Arabia and a few passengers from UAE ended up getting stranded in Dubai due to the disruptions,” said Malou Prado, chief executive officer, MPQ Travel and Tourism.
She added, “However, all those issues have been resolved. Some who were supposed to fly out last week have to fly home in the coming weeks. They may not celebrate Christmas with their families since they will be quarantined. However, they are looking forward to New Year’s Day celebrations.”
Filipino expatriates are not deterred
Viervelyn Revira Gines, a nanny based in Abu Dhabi, has booked tickets to Manila for travel on the night of Thursday, December 23. Speaking to Khaleej Times ahead of her journey, she said, “I am travelling home for the first time in four years. I am fully vaccinated, so I need to undergo only a few days of institutional quarantine.”
“I am so happy to be going home and seeing my family. My place was not that badly affected by the typhoon.”
Another expatriate Marvin Balita, a fitness instructor, said, “Christmas is a significant time for the Philippines. It’s been two years since I saw my family. I do not want to miss them this year as well.”
“A lot of Filipinos are travelling for Christmas and New Year. The flights are full of passengers, not just from the UAE. However, many transit passengers from Saudi Arabia and Jordan also wa nt to travel. Quarantine is not an issue for travellers.” Prado also said that the demand for travelling this year is relatively lesser than what was experienced last year.
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