By Roy Mabasa
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Tuesday mounted simultaneous missions to repatriate distressed Filipinos from abroad and assist foreign nationals stranded in various destinations in the country following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
Shortly after noontime, more than 300 British nationals finally left the country for London via a special Philippine Airlines flight chartered by the British government through its embassy in Manila.
Hundreds of foreign nationals were not able to leave the country at once due to the implementation of the Luzon-wide enhanced community quarantine (ECQ).
“Wishing a safe journey to all the Brit travelers now London-bound on our second special flight. And maraming salamat to all our partners across the Philippines who helped us send them on their way home to their loved ones,” British Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said in a tweet.
Earlier in the day, sweeper flights were organized to extricate British, Australian Dutch, Irish, Japanese, Koreans, and American nationals in Iloilo, Cebu, Davao, Tacloban, and Dumaguete.
By land, the DFA, together with other government agencies like the Department of Tourism, the LTFRB, the different local government units, and the Philippine National Police assisted in facilitating the travel of chartered buses carrying the foreign nationals through all checkpoints to pick up foreign nationals in Bicol, Baguio, La Union and Subic.
The Australian embassy, meanwhile, arranged a sweeper flight to fetch their nationals in Dumaguete and Tacloban bound for Manila where a special flight to Melbourne and Sydney is waiting.
Also on Tuesday afternoon, the Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur repatriated 183 distressed overseas Filipinos and OFWs from Malaysia affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Earlier this month, the Philippine embassy reported that more than 50 Filipinos were found infected with the virus after attending a religious activity in the Malaysian capital.