IATF urged to enable OFWs stranded in ME to fly home

THE chairman of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) urged the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to allow more passenger flights carrying overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have been unemployed and stranded for months in United Arab Emirates.

PRC Chairman Richard Gordon, who is also a senator in a letter asked the IATF to propose opening the airports in Clark, Subic and Mactan to be able to accommodate more flights carrying OFWs.

“I’m aware that we have to take precautions, but I think it would not be a problem, if we allow more flights to come in and distribute them to other airports such as Clark, Subic, and Mactan,” Gordon stated in his letter to Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., IATF’s chief implementer.

Despite the limitations being imposed by the government on flights, he said that the predicament of the OFWs should also be taken into consideration, and their suffering should be alleviated.

The PRC chairman assured that diverting flights to the airports in Clark, Subic and Mactan would pose little risk to efforts to stop the spread of the dreaded disease since PRC testing centers will be operational within the week in the said areas, adding that they also have hotel capabilities.

“I’m sure your prompt action would be greatly appreciated by our kababayans in the Middle East whose suffering would be alleviated because they will be able to come home to their families. It must be very hard, being stranded and jobless in a foreign land, far away from your loved ones and unsure of where to get money for your next meal and other daily needs. I have also received emails pleading for help about their situation,” Gordon said.

Earlier, the Philippine Embassy in the UAE wrote to the IATF seeking assistance for the hundreds of OFWs who are unable to return to Manila.

The OFWs, according to PRC, have been stranded because Emirates and Etihad cancelled several repatriation flights from Dubai to Manila after airports in the Philippines were temporarily closed to passenger flights due to the pandemic.