PALAWAN, Philippines – Over 700 foreign nationals stranded in Palawan and Mindanao islands were airlifted to Manila this week.
Three chartered flights flew 540 foreign tourists out of Palawan on Thursday, March 26, while 143 foreign nationals were flown out of Cagayan de Oro on Wednesday.
They were stranded amid suspension of mass transport, including air travel, all over the country in a bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.
The country recorded at least 636 coronavirus cases, including 38 deaths, as of Wednesday.
Thousands stranded in Palawan
Palawan provincial tourism officer Maribel Buñi said the 3 chartered flights of Cebu Pacific that departed Palawan on Thursday were the latest among several mercy flights that the province arranged for stranded local and foreign tourists.
A Philippine military aircraft earlier also flew over a dozen Russian tourists to Cebu, where a chartered flight bound for Russia awaited them. It prompted allegations of special treatment in favor of the Russians.
Buñi said they were arranging for at least one more chartered flight for around 200 more foreigners who were stranded.
She said around 2,000 tourists have been flown out of the province as of Thursday.
The province recorded 690 foreign nationals visiting the island when Malacanañang ordered the Luzon-wide lockdown. They were visiting Puerto Princesa City and the towns of El Nido and San Vicente.
Palawan recorded its first coronavirus case on March 21. The 26-year-old male Australian tourist flew out of the city on March 17 through one of these mercy flights.
Lockdowns in Mindanao
In Cagayan de Oro, up to 143 foreign nationals stranded in different parts of Mindanao were flown out of Laguindingan Airport on Wednesday.
The different local government units in the Visayas and Mindanao also imposed measures to prevent the disease from spreading in their areas.
Among the foreign nationals airlifted out of Cagayan de Oro were 7 Russians who had to travel from Davao City, where all commercials flights were canceled, and stay in Cagayan de Oro while waiting for the mercy flight.
“They were escorted to Laguindingan Airport,” said Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno.
The chartered flight of Cebu Pacific left the airport at 3:30 pm on Wednesady. – Rappler.com