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1k stranded passengers flock to Mla airport, hoping for flights home

06 June 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

More than 100 slept outside terminal 2 after failing to board a flight back to Mindanao (ABS-CBN photo)

About a thousand Filipinos who have been stranded in Metro Manila since the lockdown was imposed in mid-March have flocked to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, hoping to catch flights back to their provinces. This was after government officials announced domestic flights would resume with the easing of restrictions on Jun 1.

About 150 of them had to sleep overnight outside terminal 2 of the airport, when the free flight to Mindanao that they had hoped to catch yesterday, Jun 4, did not materialize.

All of those without confirmed tickets no earlier than three hours before their scheduled flights were not also not allowed in, and were thus forced to stay outside amid the searing heat.
Those who camped out overnight said they went to Manila to apply for overseas jobs but were abandoned by their recruitment agency when the lockdown was imposed.

They said they went to the airport after being told by someone in their group that there would be free flights to Visayas and Mindanao.

But Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said the sweeper flights are only being offered free to overseas Filipino workers.


“We are coordinating their sweeper flights pauwi, pero hindi po necessarily OWWA ang gagastos kasi hindi sila OFW,” said Cacdac in a TV interview.

He said the recruitment agency should have arranged for the flights home by the job applicants. The case will be reported to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for proper action against the recruiter.
 
Many had gone to the airport, only to be told at the last minute that their flights were cancelled (GMA News photo)

But not all who were at the airport were there for free flights.

Myra Demesa said in her post on the Facebook page of NAIA that her group had gone to the airport with confirmed tickets via AirAsia for Jun 1. But when they got to the airport, they were told that their flight had been canceled.

“On the day of our supposed flight, di na kami umalis ng airport. Kasi nga sabi Jun 3, Jun 1 po dapat ticket naming. So imbis suungin na naman namin yung pabalik sa boarding house – mind you, two hours kaming naglakad kasi walang masakyan – nag stay kami, hoping na matutuloy yung Jun 3.”

But there was no flight again on Jun 3, so they went to terminal 3 to try to talk to an airline representative, but they were barred from entering.

They managed to speak with the airline supervisor when the airport authority heard of their plight, and they have been rebooked for tomorrow, Jun 6. But even that came with a warning that it could be cancelled again.


In a separate post, she said: “Kami na bumili ng sarili naming ticket para makauwi lang. Kahit gaano ka mahal, sige binayaran namin. Pero parang wala kang maaasahang tulong sa government. Guards nga lang ng NAIA, kung tingnan kami parang basura... tsk.”

Other people who commented on the same thread said their relatives also had confirmed tickets but arrived at the airport way ahead of time to make sure they wouldn’t miss their flights, and were not allowed inside.

Someone named Jessa said she was hurt on hearing that her parents were barred entry just because they decided to leave their house in the province early for their midnight flight, worried about the curfew.

They arrived at the airport at around 2pm but were told that they could not enter yet. Her father is a senor citizen and her mother has hypertension.

“Okay may protocol, pero ang init init sa labas. Wala pang mabilhan ng makakain. Safety purposes gets ko, pero yung comfort ng passengers isipin din sana. Nakakalungkot at masakit sa dibdib na ganun aabutin nila. Gutom at init,” she said.

Maribel Dayag Luyun chimed in: “Same with my husband. Hatinggabi nakarating sa NAIA terminal 1. Hindi pinapasok kasi kailangan daw 3 hours before departure puwedeng pumasok. Para na siyang pulubi at sobrang pawis na siya na sa labas lang ng NAIA nakaupo. Wala man lang kunsiderasyon.”
 
Some had confirmed flights but could not get in until 3 hours before their departure time

Another commented that the mess was the result of the lack of planning and coordination within the government on how to properly respond to the easing of the lockdown.

Brenda Escalante said, “Why blame the people who go to the airport with confirmed tickets not knowing their flights are to be cancelled. It is not easy just to say leave the terminal when the people do not have the funds to sustain their needs in the city po. Sana maisip din ang kalagayan ng mga tao.”

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier announced domestic flights would resume starting today in areas under general community quarantine.

But he was not able to foresee that the airlines would be forced to cancel flights because some local government units would not allow them to land.

As of tonight, at least four scheduled flights going to Cebu from NAIA were canceled throughout the day for this reason. At Clark International Airport, flights to Cebu and Davao were also canceled at the last minute.

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific, meanwhile, managed to go ahead with their special flights to  General Santos, Cagayan de Oro and Naga to bring home stranded passengers from Metro Manila.


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