Covid-19: Philippines to operate repatriation flights from UAE on June 30, July 7

Manila - The government will charter more flights depending on the availability of quarantine facilities.

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Published: Tue 29 Jun 2021, 4:42 PM

Last updated: Tue 29 Jun 2021, 4:47 PM

Philippines foreign affairs undersecretary Sarah Lou Arriola said on Wednesday that two repatriation flights from the UAE are scheduled on June 30 and July 17.

Arriola assured that the government will charter more flights depending on the availability of quarantine facilities.

"We have 35,000 rooms available at the moment and they get filled up fast, but we're ready to repatriate. We have been given by the government enough resources to get sweeper flights. The only problem is that because quarantine lasts for 14 days, that 35,000 gets quickly filled," she said during a virtual presser hosted by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

Arriola said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is consistently working with other government agencies to ask for more quarantine facilities and once rooms are available, a new repatriation flight might be announced between June 30 and July 17.

"It's easy to charter flights but we cannot do away with the quarantine protocol if there are really no rooms. If you read the news, the Delta variant wreaks havoc, but we're doing our best and trying to find ways to open up more hotels in different parts of the country," she added.

A travel suspension is currently imposed for incoming flights in the UAE, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal amid the spread of the more contagious Delta coronavirus variant in the region, prohibiting most Filipinos in the country from returning home.

Some OFWs have already taken to social media their appeal to lift the suspension as many of them are now burdened with rebooking fees and expired visas.

For those stranded, Arriola said they may also avail of the repatriation programme being offered by the nearest embassy or consulates.

"Anyone who's stranded is an OFW in distress so I would really encourage them to avail of the repatriation flights because the longer it takes the more people are stranded. We're not selective when it comes to repatriation so anyone who applies is welcome, but of course the priority are those with medical conditions and those who are pregnant)," she said.

Last week, a total of 325 distressed overseas Filipino workers arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the third flight from UAE this year using the DFA's Assistance To Nationals (ATN) fund.

The recent batch included 88 pregnant distressed overseas Filipinos.

Upon arrival, all repatriates undergo stringent facility-based quarantine provided by the Philippine government, in conformity with the health protocols set by the Department of Health (DOH) - Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and shall be subjected to reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction test for Covid-19.

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