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PAL flies home last batch of 88 stranded workers

01 June 2021

By Vir B. Lumicao 

OWWA Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao (with black mask) was among those who saw the stranded passengers off

A long and frustrating wait by the remaining 88 stranded Filipino workers in Hong Kong ended today, June 1, when they were flown home by Philippine Airlines, the carrier that had cancelled their bookings repeatedly.

At 10:30am, the last two of the passengers were escorted into the departure gate by officers from the Consulate, who made sure all the stranded workers with valid PAL tickets who were at the Hong Kong International Airport were boarded.

“We’ll make sure that no one will be left behind, whether they have registered with OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) or not,” said Consul Robert Quintin, chief of the PCG’s cultural section.

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Quintin said PAL deployed a smaller aircraft for Flight PR301 that carried a total of 150 passengers. He said the stranded workers made up the bulk of those passengers.

He and Arnel de Luna, officer of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section, walked up to the departure gate with the last few passengers and the Hong Kong ground staff who checked them in.  

On May 26, a total of 150 workers flew home after the PCG, via the Department of Foreign Affairs, asked the Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid Control to increase PAL’s daily passenger arrival quota at Ninoy Aquino International Airport so it could fly them home.


As in the earlier batch, there were Chinese employers who went to the airport along with their children to send off their departing workers.

One employing family, surnamed Fu, assisted their helper Junnalee Villasotes as she checked in to make sure she had not forgotten anything.

“Junnalee was part of our family. She had been with us for more than 10 years,” said Idason Fu, who said she was still small when Villasotes moved in with the family.


“I didn’t go to work today so I can send her off. I will be missing her because she took care of me. She’s a family member,” said the young woman.

Idason (rightmost) skipped work to join her parents in seeing off her beloved nanny, Junnalee

Like their daughter, the Fu couple said they would miss the helper because she was very good and trustworthy.

“We like her very much. We trust her. I and my husband went to work everyday and Junnalee took care of our daughter until she grew up and she looked after our house,” Mrs Fu said. “Oh, she also took care of our pet dog,” she added.

Villasotes said it was time for her to be with her family as her three children need her, too.

One local family including a grandfather saw off their tearful helper until the departure gate, with the female employer helping her scan her passport at the electronic turnstile. The Filipina said she had served the family for 16 years but the children had grown up.

Another local family with two toddlers queued up with the helper as she sorted out her pre-boarding documents at the check-in counter.

Some of the stranded workers who were able to fly home even without confirming their booking with OWWA or PAL had staked out at Hong Kong International Airport since Monday hoping to set a seat on the flight.

Geraldine said that after two cancellations, she was confirmed for Tuesday’s flight but PAL called her last night and told her the flight was full.

At 10am, she waited in the queue while De Luna interceded with the check-in staff for Geraldine and about five other passengers who were not booked for today.

“Nandito na kami kasi sa airport kahapon pa at nagbabaka-sakaling maisakay kami. Hindi na kami nakadaan sa OWWA,” the helper said. (We’ve been here at the airport since yesterday hoping we’d be boarded. We had no more time to drop in at OWWA.)

With her was Elisa, a worker who said she had been in Hong Kong for a total of 27 years, serving her last employer for the past quarter-century.

A farmer’s wife, she said she was going home for good because two of her sons are now engineers, the older one being 31 years old. Her employer has given her long service pay, she said, so she has something to start a small business.

At 10:15 am, Geraldine and Elisa were issued boarding passes for the 11:25am flight. They hurried to the departure gate and joined their fellow stranded workers in waiting for the boarding call.

The workers had been stuck here for several months due to repeated flight cancellations that the airline blamed on outside factors such as the pandemic-related lockdowns in Metro Manila and Hong Kong’s ban on flights from Manila and other countries.

Consulate officers led by Quintin (in white shirt) escorted the passengers up to the boarding gates

Originally, over 400 had registered with OWWA for flights that the PCG would arrange. But, frustrated by months of waiting, many eventually bought tickets on other carriers.

Quintin said the flight this morning practically wiped out the backlog of stranded workers. “We’ll begin from zero until we have a need for another special flight,” he said.

Quintin led a team of PCG, OWWA, Philippine Overseas Labor Office and Social Welfare officers who worked until midnight on Monday contacting the passengers and finalizing the roster. Then they woke up early to go to the airport and assist the workers with last-minute documentation.

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