Flights continue for foreigners trapped by COVID-19 in Northern Mindanao
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Foreigners trapped by border closures in Northern Mindanao had been flown out and sent home, according to tourism officials here.
Among those flown out of the Laguindingan Airport were eight Russians, who had stayed in Bukidnon province, according to Chaisa Duguilme, city tourism officer, on Thursday (March 26).
Duguilme said the trapped foreigners consisted of two families who arrived here from Bukidnon in two batches.
The first batch consisted of a woman and her two children who arrived last Wednesday (March 25) evening followed by the rest of the Russians who arrived early on Thursday.
Also on Wednesday, two Russians from Cebu flew in to Cagayan de Oro to join their compatriots in leaving the Philippines, she said.
Duguilme gave assurances that the foreigners had no medical condition and showed no sign or symptoms of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).
She said village health workers had first checked the foreigners before they were let go.
She also clarified that the Russians did not come from Davao City but from Bukidnon.
She said the group wanted to go to Davao where they could take a plane for Manila, but the city had already shut its doors to nonresidents, forcing the foreigners to go to Cagayan de Oro instead.
It was not immediately known when the foreigners first arrived in Bukidnon.
Since the Russians could not speak English, Duguilme said her office got in touch with the Russian Embassy in Manila to send an interpreter for the trapped foreigners.
According to Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr., 229 tourists have been trapped in Northern Mindanao since many areas in the region closed its borders in the hope of preventing the entry of COVID-19 carriers and flights had been cancelled.
In his March 24 letter to Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano, Boncato asked the provincial government to allow an airline to take the foreigners to Manila on Wednesday.
The letter said the flight was part of “efforts in ensuring that every tourist is brought back to their homeland safely.”
The DOT, he said, “has been facilitating recovery flights in areas with large numbers of stranded visitors.”
Ariel Paderan, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines information officer for Northern Mindanao, said a total of 150 trapped foreigners had flown out of the Laguindingan Airport on Wednesday.
He said they took the 2:40 p.m. flight on board a Cebu Pacific plane bound for Manila.
Paderan said the passengers were a mix of nationalities—Russians, French, Koreans, Canadians, Americans and some Filipinos who have foreign citizenships.
Edited by TSB
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