168 Pinoys repatriated from Macau amid COVID-19

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star
168 Pinoys repatriated from Macau amid COVID-19

MANILA, Philippines — A group of 168 Filipinos, including five children, stranded in Macau due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) arrived yesterday afternoon at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 after the group were repatriated from the Chinese territory.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the group includes mostly undocumented Filipino workers and migrant workers registered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and five children of some of the workers.

They arrived at 4:10 p.m. at the NAIA on board a chartered Air Macau flight.

The DFA said the workers will each received P7,000 cash from President Duterte and will undergo self-quarantine in their homes for 14 days.

One of the homecoming Filipinos was Carla Ravanera of Cavite, who said she went to Macau to visit her husband who is an overseas Filipino worker.

She said she arrived in Macau in the second week of January.

“Luckily my husband works there so we did not suffer much,” she added.

Yuki de Vera, who arrived with her mother and father, said they were forced to stay in Macau for over a month when the travel ban was imposed.

DFA Assistant Secretary Ed Meñez said those repatriated were stranded in Macau after the Philippines imposed a travel ban on Macau, China, Hong Kong.

He said the group includes tourists who went to Macau to look for employment without passing through the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Some of them were not able to leave Macau even after the travel ban was lifted due to lack of available flights.

The DFA said only those without symptoms of COVID-19 will be allowed to disembark.

They will be required to undergo self-quarantine in their homes for two weeks.

Meanwhile, those who will display symptoms will be brought to a medical facility for further investigation and treatment if necessary.

Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito has proposed the free cancellation and rebooking of airline flights to countries with confirmed cases of COVID-19.

Castelo filed a resolution asking the House to urge airline companies and travel agencies to allow passengers who booked flights to countries with COVID-19 cases - including those not covered by existing travel ban - to fully refund payment or rebook for free.

The lawmaker lamented that flight cancellation and rebooking are inevitable at this time but “usually incur additional costs and cancellation fees and penalties.”

But airlines have so far only cancelled and rebooked flights to and from destinations covered by the government’s travel ban like China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau as well as North Gyeongsang province in South Korea.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is cancelling some flights to Taiwan this month due to low volume of passengers as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Due to a continuing slowdown in travel demand between Manila and Taipei amid COVID-19 concerns, Philippine Airlines is compelled to operate a reduced number of flights to and from Taipei from March 7 to March 28, 2020,” PAL said.

PAL is canceling its Manila-Taipei-Manila flights every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, while keeping operational flights every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

The airline said passengers of the cancelled flights to or from Taipei have the option to request for rebooking or refunding of confirmed ticket on or before March 28. – With Rudy Santos, Edu Punay, Sheila Crisostomo, Richmond Mercurio, Ding Cervantes



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