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Special flights arranged by PCG lift spirits of stranded OFWs

10 July 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Stranded OFWs line up to get  onto confirmed flights arranged by the PCG

Flights home for stranded OFWs arranged by the Consulate with Cathay Pacific have elicited profuse thanks from those who benefited or secured slots for the next voyage.

But many other stranded workers booked on other airlines whose flights have been repeatedly cancelled are also asking for help.

As of Jul 9, more than 200 Filipinos whose previous reservations had been repeatedly cancelled by Cathay had listed up for the next flight to be arranged by the PCG with the carrier, according to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao said that on Thursday alone, a day after the Hong Kong carrier’s second flight this month for the stranded workers, more than 70 had registered for the coveted slots.

“Kahapon po ay 76 ang nagparegister pero there are already over 200 listed since July 5,” Tamayao said in response to a query.

She said earlier that when there’s enough number of passengers who have registered, the Consulate would arrange a flight with Cathay to fly them home.

The special flights have, however, caused resentment from other OFWs who bought their tickets from other carriers like Hong Kong Airlines or Philippine Airlines.

One said she lined up for a long time, only to be told at the end that she couldn’t be listed for the arranged flights because she was holding a PAL-issued ticket. She accused OWWA of being “unfair”.

However, PAL has not flown to and from Hong Kong since February as a result of strict quarantine rules in Manila, which would have grounded a big number of its crew who are all based there, for each flight they took. Hong Kong exempts airline crew from the mandatory 14-day quarantine.

PAL only recently started accepting bookings again, but with the quarantine issue still unresolved, most of its upcoming flights are likely to be cancelled again.

Consulate staff also say that Cathay is the only airline that has agreed to do the special flights in consideration of the difficulties faced by migrant workers amid the pandemic.
No less than Consul General Raly Tejada saw off the first batch on Jun 6
Tamayao said six special flights to Manila had been arranged thus far by the PCG, with four in June and, lately, the Jul 6 and Jul 8 voyages.

The workers who were able to return home on those flights today thanked the Consulate, OWWA and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office profusely for helping them get home.

“Thank you OWWA/POLO at isa ako sa mapalad na natulungan nyo nakauwi nung July 6. Simula Hong Kong airport, pinakain at ginabayan nyo kaming mga stranded OFW hanggang makarating dito sa Pinas,” said Chato Adame.

(“Thank you OWWA/POLO for I am one of the lucky ones who you helped return home on  July 6. From Hong Kong airport, you fed and guided up stranded OFWs until we reached the Philippines.”)

“At saludo kami sa mga [Coast Guard] at OWWA personnel na nag-assist sa amin hanggang sa aming designated hotel na napakaganda at comfortable. God bless you all. Sa wakas makakapiling na namin ang aming pamilya sa susunod na araw,” she said.

(“And we salute the PCG and OWWA personnel who assisted us until we reached our designated hotel, which is beautiful and comfortable. God bless you all. Finally, we’ll be reunited with our families tomorrow.”)
Stranded OFWs who are still waiting for their flight schedule equally thanked the Consulate for giving them hope just as they were beginning to despair over the multiple cancellations.

Reading The SUN’s previous reports about the special flights, the workers said they would also approach the OWWA to enlist for a slot.

Among them was Ann Magtolis, who said her CX flight had been cancelled thrice way before the departure date: the first on Jul 17, then Jul 25 and finally, Aug. 1

Magtolis said she also bought a PAL ticket for Jul 17, but that was only because she was desperate to return home.

Peng Magsayo said she hopes she could fly home soon, as her Cathay flight had been cancelled twice already. She has rebooked her ticket for Aug 2 and is praying she could exit Hong Kong because her visa will expire by then.

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