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How embassies are helping their nationals stranded in the Philippines

Philstar.com
How embassies are helping their nationals stranded in the Philippines
This photo taken on February 23, 2020 shows a worker cleaning chairs at the boarding area while arriving passengers disembark at the international airport in Manila. The Philippines has three cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus that emerged in central China at the end of last year that has now killed more than 2,400 people and spread around the world.
AFP / Romeo Gacad

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines' largest island has been on an extended lockdown since March in a drastic bid to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Rodrigo Duterte has since extended the enhanced community quarantine in National Capital Region to last until May 15, effectively putting Metro Manila and other areas on lockdown for two months.

This ECQ hoisted over Manila means domestic flights to the capital have been suspended, leaving foreign travelers in other parts of the country stranded.

The Department of Tourism has since mounted “sweeper flights” to ferry stranded foreign nationals to Manila so they can board international flights back to their home country.

The STAR reported on March 26 that Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the department had already assisted 10,829 tourists from various resorts by then.

There were still 2,500 tourists stranded at that time, she added.

Last Friday, the DOT registered 11 flights for over 700 returning Overseas Filipino Workers and over 400 foreign nationals.

Sweeper flights from Siargao, Cebu and Puerto Princesa, ferrying Belgian and Spanish nationals were also arranged on April 24, DOT told Philstar.com in a message. 

Three hundred Spanish nationals boarded a repatriation flight to Madrid on the same day.

Foreign embassies in Manila have also been working to fly their residents home.

Here is running list of how these embassies have been helping their stranded nationals:

Australia

On Tuesday, April 28, Australia brought their nationals home on three flights: Manila to Melbourne, Manila to Sydney and Manila to Brisbane.

Prior to the international flight, the embassy also mounted domestic sweeper flights from Dumaguete to Tagbilaran, Tacloban to Manila, Iloilo to Manila, Tagbilaran to Manila, Cebu to Manila, Davao to Manila and Cagayan de Oro to Manila.

The embassy also arranged transport for Australians in Boracay and other parts of Aklan, and in Bacolod and other parts of Negros Occidental, to be brought to Iloilo.

Austria

The Austrian Embassy in Manila arranged a sweeper flight from Davao, Bacolod, Bohol, Cagayan de Oro, Caticlan, Cebu, Davao, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Leyte, Puerto Princesa and Siargao to the Philippine capital.

Belgium

The Belgian Embassy in Manila organized a sweeper flight from Siargao to Manila on April 23. Passengers of the said flight are composed of 12 nationalities: Germany, Finland, Sweden, Switzerland, United States, Korea, Hungary, Latvia, Poland, United Kingdom and Philippines.

Six Belgians were also on board the flight.

A total of 23 Belgians flew out of Manila to Madrid on April 23.

“On the way there (Siargao), we also brought medical equipment (PPEs and vaccines) for the MetroDocs Medical Clinic in Siargao,” the embassy wrote on April 24.

Canada

The Canadian Embassy in the Philippines mounted six trips to Canada. Its last planned flight to Canada was on April 21.

“These dedicated commercial flights provided Canadians an option to return directly to Canada despite challenges posed by COVID19 pandemic,” the Embassy wrote on Twitter.

OFWs with valid Canadian work permits were also allowed to purchase tickets and fly to Canada.

France

The Embassy of France to the Philippines and Micronesia organized three special flights from Cebu and/or Manila on March 25, April 1 and 8. The embassy also chartered domestic flights for Manila from several areas in the Philippines, allowing 1,003 French nationals to return to their home country.

Those who were not able to board the flights were asked to contact the embassy to inform them of their situations and current locations, the embassy wrote in a post on April 12.

Germany

German Embassy Manila organized a “one-time operation” sweeper flights on April 8 covering Bohol, El Nido, Palawan, Cebu, Boracay, Siargao and Davao. German nationals were flown out to Manila.

Japan

His Excellency Koji Haneda, ambassador of Japan in the Philippines, wrote on Twitter that they were able to fly out 180 Japanese citizens from Cebu to Japan on a Philippine Airlines flight on April 15.

This was done in coordination with the departments of foreign affairs, tourism, transportation, and national defense.

Netherlands

The embassy flew Dutch nationals from Davao to Manila on April 18.

It earlier arranged sweeper flights from Tagbilaran, Cebu, Bacolod and Iloilo to Manila on April 11.

While special assistance to stranded Dutch nationals was stopped on April 8, tailored assistance is still offered.

Those who are still stranded and want to go back to the Netherlands are advised to contact the Ministry Center +31 247 247 247. The center is operation 24/7.

New Zealand

The New Zealand Embassy has repared a flight for their nationals and their family to Auckland from Manila on April 29.

They are told to submit their Expressions of Interest to the embassy for the said flight.

Spain

On April 23, the embassy mounted flights from Puerto Princesa to Manila and Siargao to Manila with the help of Philippine Army.

Those on Malapascua and Bantayan islands in Cebu were boarded on a ship to Cebu then flown to Manila. They were also flown out from Zamboanga City and Caticlan in Boracay to Manila.

Sweden

A repatriation flight from Manila to Milan, Italy was set on April 27. While the embassy wrote that “travellers have to be residents in Italy or have proof of an onward flight from Milan at the arrival in Italy,” it also urged Swedish travellers to contact them for the said flight.

The embassy also said Swedish travellers could take the British Embassy’s sweeper flights from several points of the Philippines to Manila, provided that they have proof of onward international travel bookings.

United Kingdom

The British Embassy in Manila mounted a sweeper flight for British travelers on April 28.

The embassy earlier asked nationals to coordinate with them for those who will be coming from other places like Cebu and Tacloban so they may arrive in Manila in time for the flight to London.

Some were also boarded on ships from Puerto Princesa in Palawan. There were ferries from Siquijor, Dumaguete and other parts of Negros Oriental to ferry travelers to Bacolod port.

Travel itineraries were also set for those in Bacolod and other parts of Negros Occidental, and from Boracay to arrive in Iloilo International Airport.

United States of America

On April 28, the US Embassy mounted flights for US citizens from Cebu, Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Iloilo, Dumaguete, Bohol and Tacloban to Manila.

“Travelers must have proof of an onward international flight within 24 hours of the sweeper flight or booked hotel accommodations until their confirmed onward international flight,” the Embassy wrote on Monday.

While it said that the US government does not, at the moment, “anticipate arranging repatriation flights” in the Philippines, commercial flight options may be availed.

Kristine Joy Patag with Rosette Adel

Although we have tried to make this list as comprehensive as possible, embassies of countries that we may have missed may send us an email at editor@philstar.com for inclusion and for updates on efforts to repatriate their nationals.

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