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At Subic Airport, PAL returns 299 OFWs

On Wednesday, a Philippine Airlines (PAL) aircraft carrying 299 returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Saudi Arabia landed at Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA), marking the first passenger trip here since 2011.

Wilma T. Eisma, chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), who greeted the arriving workers on the Subic tarmac, described the PAL OFW flight as “a momentous occasion,” noting that it was “the first time that the Subic airport served as an alternate entry point for OFWs wanting to return to the Philippines.”

β€œThis is also the first commercial flight to arrive in Subic after a decade of drought, with the previous one being the Astro Air trip in 2011,” Eisma said in a statement.

Senator Richard Gordon requested the government’s Covid-19 task group more than a year ago to open up Subic, Clark, and Mactan airports to enable additional passenger flights for Filipino migrant workers who had been displaced by the epidemic and had been stuck in their host countries for months, she claimed.

β€œHere we are, one year later. And we expect that, in addition to assisting in the repatriation of OFWs, this will mark the commencement of regular passenger flights in Subic,” the SBMA president added.

At 11:02 a.m., PAL Flight PR5683 landed from Dammam, Saudi Arabia, and was greeted with an initial water salute from a firetruck from the SBMA Fire Department on the tarmac.

The aircraft had 293 OFWs, four sailors, and two returning overseas Filipinos on board (ROFs).

The 299 passengers, according to Eisma, would be quarantined for seven to ten days at hotels and other lodging facilities inside the Subic Bay Freeport that have been approved by the Department of Tourism and verified by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ).

The flight was the second of six planned by PAL for Subic this month as part of the government’s effort to help abroad Filipinos return home amid the Covid-19 epidemic.

Due to strong tailwinds, the first PAL aircraft scheduled to arrive at Subic on Monday was diverted to the Clark Freeport Zone’s Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA). The aircraft, which took off from Dammam as well, was carrying 309 OFWs, two sailors, and one ROF.

The next flights to Subic will be on July 15, 17, 25, and 27, with each PAL Airbus A330 aircraft carrying an average of 230 passengers.

The OFW flights to Subic, according to Eisma, are in accordance with the Civil Aeronautics Board’s (CAB) policy of limiting all international airports in the country to 1,500 passengers per day.

As a result, she said, PAL has dispersed its flights to different airports in order to suit the market.

The entry of OFWs, according to the SBMA head, would have a “good effect on local tourism that will also help employees, commercial institutions, and service providers in our towns.”

She also said that accommodations outside of the Subic Bay Freeport may profit from any overflow that may result from the repatriation of foreign workers through Subic.

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