NAIA ready for flights carrying OFWs, essential supplies
MIAA general manager Ed Monreal said they are prepared for the arrival of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially seafarers who have nowhere to go but stay on their cruise ships while waiting for their manning agencies to charter flights that would airlift them to Manila.
STAR/File
NAIA ready for flights carrying OFWs, essential supplies
Rudy Santos (The Philippine Star) - May 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) will allow “upon approval of the government” all inbound flights carrying Filipino workers stranded abroad, medical supplies and food to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) starting today.

MIAA general manager Ed Monreal said they are prepared for the arrival of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially seafarers who have nowhere to go but stay on their cruise ships while waiting for their manning agencies to charter flights that would airlift them to Manila.

Bureau of Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said a skeletal force is also ready for the inspection and other formalities for international passengers, pilots and crew once the operation starts.

Monreal noted that National Task Force on COVID-19 response chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. told him Wednesday that the inbound OFW passengers will be limited to only 400 to 500 “to make it manageable.”

He added that Galvez earlier decided to temporarily stop inbound international flights to decongest the quarantine facilities that will have to be used for the new arrivals.?“At present, we have more or less 23,480 OFWs quarantined in Metro Manila and in nearby Batangas. And it is our recommendation that was approved by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) for us to have temporary restrictions. It is only for the inbound OFWs or incoming OFWs in our national airport. It was intended to regulate the entry of OFWs,” Galvez had pointed out.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said more than 9,000 returning OFWs are still under quarantine and can’t go home yet to their families pending the required swabbing and testing for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

It admitted that even if one has already completed the 14-day quarantine, many could not immediately go through the swabbing and testing processes.

“The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) has started doing mass testing. Let’s just stay tuned for the arrival of PCG in your place to perform RT-PCR COVID-19 swab test for you. We have to rules to follow to ensure the pain caused by COVID will not get into your homes,” the agency said in a statement.

At this time, OWWA said it is monitoring 110 quarantine facilities in Metro Manila and neighboring provinces, where the over 9,000 returning OFWs are temporarily staying. It has also readied more buses to bring them to and from the swabbing centers.

While waiting for the new results, which will come out in 3 to 4 days, the OFWs will temporarily stay in hotels. If the result is negative, OWWA will give the OFW a certificate of completion of the 14-day quarantine while the PCG will issue the certificate of negative RT-PCR test results.

As of May 4, OWWA has already assisted 24,539 OFWs who have been affected by the COVID pandemic and have returned home. They were provided with free transport and temporary shelter as well as food packs.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Navy is bringing home 15 Filipino tourists and three seamen that were stranded in India after the country declared a lockdown.

Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, Navy flag officer in command, said 14 of the 18 have already boarded the strategic sealift vessel BRP Davao del Sur (LD602) that is docked along with escort ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PS16) at the Cochin city port.

He said the ships were loaded with the PPEs that were either bought or donated to the Philippines.

The stranded Filipinos, he added, traveled 2,600 kilometers from New Delhi to the Port of Cochin through the facilitation and supervision of the Philippine embassy in Delhi.

“All them have medical certificates clearing them from coronavirus but will still be put in isolation inside the vessel under a 24-hour supervision by our medical team,” Bacordo noted.

The two navy ships were originally sent to the Middle East to assist in the repatriation of OFWs who wished to return home following the recent US-Iran crisis that resulted to the killing of a key Iranian general.

It was diverted to India to pick up 200,000 face masks and other medical supplies procured by a Filipino businessman for Filipino health workers fighting the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.

Both ships are expected to arrive in the Philippines on May 21.

“This mission does not only manifest the Navy’s resolve to support our COVID-19 frontliners by hauling and transporting needed sets of PPE from overseas but also demonstrates its capacity to provide assistance to our fellow Filipinos wherever they are in the world,” Bacordo said. – Mayen Jaymalin, Jaime Laude

MANILA INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT AUTHORITY NAIA OFW
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