Philippines closes airports to relieve quarantine centres from migrant workers

Inbound passenger flights shut for seven days starting Sunday.
Philippines closes airports to relieve quarantine centres from migrant workers 31

The Philippines has temporarily suspended all inbound passenger flights for seven days starting Sunday because to lower the strain on space in quarantine centres which are filled with thousands of migrant workers returning home during the current covid-19 pandemic.

There are millions of Filipinos work abroad in countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Singapore and Qatar amid the most popular destinations. Nearly 24,000 migrant workers returned home, many Filipino after losing their jobs as the global economy shrinks to a halt because of the virus.

Upwards of 40,000 Filipinos, many of them in the Gulf states, are anticipated to be arriving in the next few weeks. This statement was given via a radio interview by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, who leads the anti-virus task force.

The quarantine is mandatory for all and those who are returning back are required to complete the 14-day quarantine at centres established by the government that are currently completely filled.

The government has been utilizing hotel rooms and ships docked in harbour as makeshift isolation wards to facilitate quarantine, and has quickly ran out of space.

The overseas workers and welfare administration anticipate up to 250,000 Filipino migrant workers who might be forced to return to homes because of the current health crisis.

About 90,000 migrant Filipino workers have been working abroad in hotels, as seamen, cooks, waiters, mall staff,  factory workers, entertainers, oil and construction workers have had work suspended without pay or are now jobless due to the lockdown.

Researchers are estimating up to 400,000 out of 4 million Filipinos working abroad in 46 countries may be affected by the current crisis.

Philip Airport
Passengers wearing masks stand by with their luggage outside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Paranaque, Metro Manila, amid fears of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) spreading in Philippines, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Eloisa Lopez

“All commercial flights ‘to and from the Philippines’ have been suspended starting 8 am on Sunday”, said the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) in a post on its Facebook page on Saturday (May 2). Only flights carrying cargo, medical supplies and equipment, as well as “utility and maintenance flights” would continue, it said.

There are many who are furious because of the hasty manner in which the government has reacted. They felt the ambiguous official instructions which are send over social media, are confusing and rather sudden leaving many little time to react around issues.

“So frustrating!” said Mr Roldan Abarentos, who wrote in a Facebook post that he worked as a seaman. He said: “As seafarers, we really want to go home. We’re stuck in the ship, and now the government decide without any further notice”.

Mr Yznan Frost, who recognizes himself as an American, said: “Oh, wow! Advisory effective in 8 hours. You display the responsibility and common sense of a toddler”.

The news restrictions on inbound flights were intended to “allow the government to de-congest the quarantine facilities in Metro Manila”. This statement was given by Mr Carlito Galvez, head of a task force overseeing the country’s effort to check the spread of the corona virus epidemic. 

An assistant secretary at the foreign ministry Mr Eduardo Menez said, “Foreigners who are still in the Philippines and Filipinos with no jobs waiting for them can still leave”.

Inbound commercial flights must seek an “exemption” from civil aviation officials. This was clarified on Sunday by Mr Galvez.

Rajitha Reddy
Journalist at News Asia Today covering topics on Life, Business, and Tech in Asia.