OFW repatriation flights from Diego Garcia now arriving via Subic


SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Filipino contract workers in the island military outpost of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean can now come home via repatriation flights by Philippine Airlines (PAL) to Subic.

The first PAL flight from Diego Garcia to Subic arrived here on Monday, Dec. 13, after the Philippine flag carrier decided to expand its “Bayanihan” flights to bring home more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in time for the holidays, said Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma.

OFW flights via the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) began last July under the government’s repatriation program to assist Filipinos stranded abroad because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“With this, Subic is now connected to 10 cities and major destinations in the Indo-Pacific area,” Eisma said on Monday. “We are now the gateway for OFWs coming from the Middle East, as well as Asian ports.”

She said the areas with PAL connections to Subic now include Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, Doha in Qatar, Macau, Palau, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and now Diego Garcia.

The latest PAL flight brought to Subic a total of 303 passengers, who are mostly contract workers from Diego Garcia, said SBMA Senior Deputy Administrator for Operations Ronnie Yambao.

One of them was Oscar Ebalan, a native of Masinloc, Zambales, who arrived with his son Aldean, also a contract worker employed by KBR Diego Garcia LLC, a military contractor which provides operations, maintenance, and logistics services in the island.

Ebalan said the OFW flight from Diego Garcia to Subic took more than seven hours non-stop, a more difficult long haul compared to the usual flights that normally made a brief stopover at Singapore.

“But we arrived safe and OK, and the arrival procedures at Subic went smoothly,” he said, adding that they expect to be home after the mandatory quarantine and the requisite RT-PCR test five days upon arrival here.

Eisma said the SBMA expects more OFW flights via Subic before the yearend, but stressed that none of these would originate from countries that the Philippine government has placed on its red list in view of the emergence of the Omicron virus variant.

“We can be assured that no passengers will be brought here from any red-listed country because the government has prohibited the inbound international travel of all persons from red-list areas regardless of vaccination status,” Eisma said.

SBMA airport manager Zharrex Santos said that prior to the flight from Diego Garcia, the Subic airport also received recent arrivals from Dubai—a total of 280 passengers on Dec. 10, and 269 passengers on Dec. 12.

Santos said that since July, the Subic airport has received a total of 45 OFW flights and processed a total of 12,262 passengers under the government’s OFW repatriation program.

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