Covid-19: Over 300 Filipinos from UAE fly home on government-chartered flight
Philippine President announced that inbound travel from the UAE will remain suspended until June 15.
More than 300 Filipinos in the UAE were able to fly to Manila on Tuesday, on board a repatriation flight chartered by the Philippine government.
Providing relief to Filipino expats who needed to go home because of medical emergencies and other pressing issues, the Cebu Pacific flight took off at 3pm amid the Philippines’ extended ban on travellers coming from the UAE and a number of other countries.
As part of measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday announced that inbound travel from the UAE, as well as India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Oman, will remain suspended until June 15. However, the authorities had earlier said that those who are part of the government’s repatriation efforts are exempted from the ban.
Tuesday’s repatriation flight from Dubai— carrying 347 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) —was organised by the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs, in coordination with the country’s embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate-general in Dubai. The initiative was part of the government’s Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2, R.A. 11519).
“Aside from carrying OFWs who met difficulties during the pandemic, the flight also included medical patients, deportees, and some minor children,” the Philippine Embassy said in a statement sent to Khaleej Times.
Officials from the Philippine missions oversaw the expats’ departure from Dubai International Airport.
Among those on board the flight was Jenilyn Volante Fanuncio, a pregnant woman whose visa had expired on May 27 and was worried about having to deliver her baby in the UAE without health insurance coverage. Fanuncio, who lost her job nine months back, shared her ordeal with Khaleej Times two weeks ago, when the flight ban was first announced.
“I am relieved that I will finally be able to go home, thanks to the Philippine government,” Fanuncio told KT a few hours before boarding her flight.
Through its embassy in Abu Dhabi and the consulate in Dubai, the Philippine government has been extending support to Filipinos who were affected by the repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic. Missions have organised special flights and facilitated the financial aid for those who lost their livelihoods.
With the current travel restrictions, other Filipinos who wished to fly home have cancelled their flights, instead of rebooking their tickets, travel agents have said.
Malou Prado, CEO and owner of MPQ Tourism, said: “Many Filipinos wanted to travel to the Philippines due to some emergency at home. A number of tourists have also scheduled their return. Now, cancelling their tickets seems to be the only option left because after the extension of the travel suspension, we do not have a clear idea on when flights will resume.”
(With inputs from SM Ayaz Zakir)
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