Dubai: A total of 370 Filipinos who were repatriated by the Philippine missions in the UAE arrived in Manila on Monday.
Philippine consul-general Paul Raymund Cortes told Gulf News it was the first chartered flight sponsored by the Philippine government and all passengers were not required to pay for their air tickets.
“There have been several special flights since April, that brought home over 7,300 Filipinos from the UAE – but those were commercial chartered flights. The latest flight was sponsored by the Philippine government and we gave priority to stranded tourists, pregnant expats, children and those with medical condition,” Cortes explained.
“We also sent home those who have decided to go home for good after they lost their jobs due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,” Cortes added.
Speaking with Gulf News before their flight, Filipino couple Kenji and Michelle Miyazaki, said they would start life anew in the Philippines.
“We have a small savings which we can use to start a food business,” the couple said.
Stephanie Fontanilla, 22, who used to work at a hotel in Al Ain, said she will also press the restart button upon arrival in the Philippines. “I would certainly miss the UAE but I’m also open to look for other opportunities back home,” she said.
Jonna Martinez, 39, decided to go home to continue her cancer treatment while Virgili Mangampo, 39, a mother of two, meanwhile, took the flight to bring home her two children aged six and four years old plus her stranded mother-in-law who visited Dubai in February this year.
Another stranded tourist, Jorge Espiritu, 33, was sent off by his two brothers who are both UAE residents. Espiritu, however, said he will certainly return to Dubai soon because he was not able to completely explore the emirate.
There were several pregnant women in the chartered flight, including Maricar and her compatriot Gretel who are 30 and 26 weeks pregnant respectively.
All passengers underwent thermal scanning and swab test upon arrival in Manila before being transported to designated hotels for quarantine and while waiting for their COVID-19 test result.