PAL’s repatriation flights via Subic stop after bringing home 20,522 OFWs
SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — A total of 20,522 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other returning Filipinos were repatriated by the Philippine Airlines (PAL) through the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) here since July last year, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) said Wednesday, Feb. 23.
But after 82 repatriation flights for nine months, PAL landed its last repatriation flight at the airport here on Tuesday, February 22.
The last flight consisted of 77 passengers from Koror City in Palau, an archipelago of islands southeast of the Philippines with a substantial population of Filipino contract workers.
SBIA was made an alternative hub under a government program to facilitate the return of OFWs amid the pandemic. These did not include nine flights diverted to nearby Clark Airport due to inclement weather.
In a statement, SBMA Chair and Administrator Wilma Eisma said the government’s repatriation flights to Subic Bay were stopped after aviation authorities increased the capacity of inbound international passengers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) when quarantine restrictions were eased.
“So, there’s no more need for PAL to reroute OFW flights via Subic. It is a bittersweet moment for us because PAL’s repatriation flights here somewhat revived our airport operations and brought much-needed income to Subic hotels during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Eisma said.
She added: “Still, the lifting of the passenger capacity limit at the NAIA is a sign that we are going back to normal and this is most welcome.”
Eisma said that at the height of the government’s OFW repatriation program, Subic was connected to 10 cities and major destinations in the Indo-Pacific area. These are Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia; Bahrain; Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the UAE; Doha in Qatar; Macau, Palau, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, and Diego Garcia.
She added that the use of Subic as an alternate port since July last year has resulted in increased international aircraft and passenger movements, as well as improved income for the Subic airport.
As of February 6, the SBIA has generated more than P4.2 million in direct income from the PAL repatriation flights.
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