MANILA, June 2 – The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo successfully repatriated 160 Filipinos on Monday, who were stranded in Japan for two months due to COVID-19 travel bans.
Passengers came from different parts of Japan and were stuck because of multiple flight cancellations, limited airline seat availability, and prohibitive airfare rebooking costs arising from the pandemic.
In a statement made by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Filipinos departed at 1:35 p.m. from Narita International Airport via charted flight mounted by the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, in coordination with Philippine Consulates-General in Osaka and Nagoya, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO)-Tokyo, and Cebu Pacific.
In an exclusive interview, Robespierre Bolivar, Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines in Tokyo, Japan said they coordinated with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila for funding and scheduling of this special flight.
“The Philippine Embassy in Tokyo allocated seats for Filipinos all over Japan and worked on this list with our Consulates-General in Osaka and Nagoya,” Bolivar said.
One of the repatriated Filipinos is Fletcher del Valle, 33 years old, from Fukushima, Japan. He is a Doctor of Philosophy in Veterinary Medicine graduate from Osaka Prefecture University.
According to him, he “was supposed to attend a graduation ceremony last March, which did not take place, forcing to stay on for two months.”
His return to the Philippines was scheduled on April 30, but his flight was canceled.
Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose C. Laurel V said they repatriated safely the stranded Filipinos and said, “that the Philippine Government will continue to actively promote the welfare of Filipinos wherever they are in the world.”
The Embassy also provided welfare and financial assistance, most especially to Filipino tourists and students who came to Japan with a restricted budget.
Succeeding repatriation activities will still be considered, as the Philippine government will continue to monitor the situation in light of the evolving situation in terms of travel restrictions and the availability of commercial flights in Japan.
Repatriated overseas Filipino workers who landed in Manila will immediately undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing upon arrival, and will settle temporarily in quarantine facilities, in accordance with the Philippine government guidelines and health protocols.
On Monday, Philippine Coast Guard announced new rules for mandatory quarantine for returning Filipinos living in Metro Manila.
One family member should pick up the returning Filipino at the airport and should immediately provide proof that they live in the region. They should isolate themselves and make self-quarantine, following strong health protocols while waiting for the result of their RT-PCR test. The results of the COVID-19 test will be sent via email.
The new rule was made due to the number of complaints from overseas Filipino workers who returned to the Philippines and experienced at most one and a half months of waiting, just for the results before returning home.
The Philippine government is still expecting thousands of returning workers in the coming months. As of yesterday, June 1, the labor department said over 25,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in different quarantine facilities have been successfully transported to their respective hometowns. (FROM STANLEY BUENAFE GAJETE | PHOTO COURTESY: DFA)