239 OFWs arrive in GenSan aboard ‘sweeper’ flights

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 26 May) – Some 239 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and dependents from parts of Region 12 or Soccsksargen who were stranded in Metro Manila due to the heightened community quarantine finally returned home on Monday through “sweeper” flights commissioned by the national government.

The General Santos International Airport. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

Edgardo Cueto, manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) here, said Tuesday the returning residents separately arrived at the city international airport aboard two Air Asia aircrafts.

He said the first flight landed around 5:45 p.m. with 100 adults and two infants onboard while the second arrived past 10 p.m. with 136 adult passengers and an infant.

Cueto said the two “sweeper” flights were among the three originally scheduled to arrive on Monday as arranged by the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the Department of Transportation.

He said the third flight via Philippine Airlines was cancelled reportedly due to problems with some documentary requirements.

“All these [flights] were arranged for stranded OFWs from Region 12,” he said.

Upon arrival, Cueto said all passengers underwent profiling and health screening before they were turned over to representatives from their respective local government units (LGUs).

He said they were then directly transported to their localities through vehicles arranged by the LGUs based on the protocol.

The overseas workers failed to return home following the suspension of domestic flights in mid-March in the wake of the implementation of Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

They were included in the special flights after completing the mandatory quarantine, testing negative for COVID-19 and issued with letter of acceptance by concerned local government units (LGUs).

Some LGUs subjected the returning overseas workers to rapid diagnostic tests for COVID-19 before they were brought to the designated isolation or quarantine facilities. In this city, the local government accommodated the OFWs in pension houses.

Limuel Portado, one of the OFWs from this city, said in a radio interview that he was stranded in Manila after arriving from Russia last March 26.

He was initially accommodated at an OWWA shelter and later transferred along with other stranded workers to a hotel.

“They provided us with food supplies and other necessary support during our quarantine,” he said.

But Portado said some of them turned depressed because of their two-month ordeal in Metro Manila.

He said they were later told that they can already go home after turning out negative for COVID-19 based on the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test facilitated by the Philippine Red Cross and Philippine Coastguard. (MindaNews)