Fresh batches of OFWs continue to arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), part of the estimated 250,000 home-bound Filipino workers who lost their jobs en masse due to the pandemic.
In June alone, some 30,000 OFW’s are expected to be flown in by various charter flights, or brought in by their cruise ships to Manila Bay.
On Thursday, 786 OFWs stranded in the United States, Germany, Portugal and Cambodia touched down at the Naia in four separate charter flights.
On hand to welcome them are representatives from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Labor (DOLE), Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa).
The new batch of returnees would undergo swab testing by trained quarantine personnel and then brought to designated quarantine sites. Their temporary shelters for the next 14 days are either hotels, or sites arranged by their manning agencies, while waiting for the results of their virus test.
Those found negative will be sent home assisted by the PCG and OWWA while those positive of Covid-19 will spend the rest of their stay undergoing treatment.
The Media Affairs Division (MAD) said the first to arrive on Thursday were 124 stranded seafarers from San Francisco, California, on board Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight PR105.
It was followed by 375 seafarers from AIDA cruise ship from Germany onboard Evelop Airlines Flight EVE 594.
The next to arrive are 167 OFWs from Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on board Cambodian Airlines, including the 120 seafarers from MV Star Pride. They boarded the sweeper flight from Lisbon, Portugal.
Also 16 cargo flights flew in Thursday bringing essential food, medical supplies and equipment.
Meanwhile, the cruise ship Diamond Princess, the first of its kind to have registered a Covid-19 infected patient onboard has dropped anchor in Manila Bay after coming from Yokohama, Japan. There are about 100 remaining Filipino seafarers onboard, some of them cooks and the majority are crew maintaining the engines. The first batch of 444 seafares aboard have gone home to the Philippines on second week of March.
The PCG was warned to take all necessary precautions in boarding the Diamond Princess and to test any remaining Filipinos for sign of infections.
Meanwhile, commercial airlines operating at Naia welcomed the possible resumption of flights in the coming days.
“Commercial domestic flights will be allowed between areas under general community quarantine [GCQ] and even expanding operations in international aviation gateways to include Clark and Davao,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said. “While the mandate of the DOTr is to provide transportation, mobility and convenience, it is now also vested with the responsibility to help in preventing the spread of the coronavirus…. Our approach will be partial, gradual, calculated, and by phases,” the transportation chief said.