Dubai: The Philippine missions in the UAE will deploy five repatriation flights, including one on July 30 and four weekly government-led chartered flights in next month, Paul Raymund Cortes, the Philippine Consul-General in Dubai confirmed during a media briefing here on Wednesday.
Cortes said close to 6,000 Filipinos have applied for repatriation, following travel restrictions imposed by the Philippine government since May. He added “the Philippine government is working on all possible options to accommodate these requests in the earliest possible time”.
Six repatriation flights were jointly organised by the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi and Philippine Consulate in Dubai on June 1, 16 and 30; and July 8, 17 and 26.
Those who wish to apply for repatriation may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org if they are from Abu Dhabi and to email@example.com for those residing in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.
Cortes noted around 350 people can be accommodated on each repatriation flight and the Philippine Consulate in Dubai had an allocation for only 200 passengers. Urgent appeal
The top Philippines diplomat added that priority would be given to patients with no health insurance, pregnant women in their third trimester with no medical insurance, families with children and those with expired visas as well as those whose visas are nearing expiration and who do not have the capacity to apply for a temporary residence permit.
Cortes also appealed to his countrymen to cancel their travel plans “if they are not really urgent”. He said: “I urge my kababayans — unless their need to go back home is extremely urgent — to please postpone it. Our neighbours in Southeast Asia — Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand — have recently seen a spike in COVID-19 cases and there are already cases of the Delta variant [of the virus] in our country.
He further said: “I’m not saying that COVID cases come from overseas Filipinos, but we are hoping — because of the travel restrictions — that we will be able to accommodate only those with emergency needs.”
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Extended travel ban
The Philippine government had first imposed restrictions on inbound travel from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Oman and the UAE from May 15 until May 31, in view of the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and to prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the virus that first emerged in India. The travel ban was first extended until June 15, before it was stretched until June 30 and prolonged further until July 30.