Sweeper flight ferries out 86 stranded foreign tourists in
14 April 2020
OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE
LAGUINDINGAN, MISAMIS ORIENTAL- A total of 86 stranded foreign tourists were flown out of Northern Mindanao through a sweeper flight to Manila and onward to Canada. The 86 foreign tourists were stranded in the region in the wake of the imposed suspension of all domestic and international flights by local airlines as a preventive measure against the spread of the COVID-19 disease in the country.
The sweeper flight was primarily organized by the Canadian Embassy and PAL to assist Canadian citizens who were unable to move out and head to Canada following the said suspension. Through coordination of the Department of Tourism – Region 10 (DOT-10), the sweeper flight was extended to accommodate other foreign citizens: Americans, British, Malaysian, and Saudi Arabian nationals.
The additional sweeper flight seats were given to non-Canadian citizens provided that they meet the requirements imposed by PAL and the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) which were the following:
They have to be holders of a foreign passport;
They were issued by a health certificate stating that they do not bear symptoms related to COVID-19 and are fit to travel;
That they have already booked an onboard flight to their home country; and
That they have secured a booking for hotel accommodation in Manila if their international flight is not in the same day as the sweeper flight.
DOT-10 spearheaded the conduct of the sweeper flight operations in Northern Mindanao by being the primary agency to receive, categorize, accommodate, and guide the tourists until they boarded the sweeper flight to Manila. “We’re conducting the sweeper flights because we really want to bring all the stranded tourists home, that’s the objective. Of course the DOT is extending full support for our stranded tourists to ensure that there’s a smooth transition to their travel home,” Department of Tourism – Region 10 Director Mariel Elaine S. Unchuan said.
The sweeper flight operations’ success would not be possible without the assistance of the Department of Health – Region 10 (DOH 10), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Department of Foreign Affairs – Region 10 (DFA-10), the Philippine National Police (PNP), the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental, the Municipal Government of Laguindingan, the City Government of Cagayan de Oro, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and members of the private sector such as
PAL, New Dawn Hotel and Red Planet Hotel.
“We’re very thankful to our local governments units who helped us especially Governor Bambi Emano and Mayor Diosdado Obsioma who allowed the flight to land and pick up our stranded tourists. Our partner agencies’ assistance was also very integral in the success of the sweeper flight. The presence of the DOH officers was an important part of the operations as they performed the necessary pre-departure mandatory profiling and health check. We also thank the CAAP for accommodating us at the Laguindingan airport. The PNP and AVESCOM were of great help in the security and in assisting foreign tourists especially from out of the Region to reach Laguindingan airport safely. Of course, the private sector were valuable parts mainly PAL for the flight and our accredited hotels, New Dawn and Red Planet, for accommodating our tourists,” Unchuan added.
One Canadian national, Mabelle Navaja who is on her way home to Vancouver cannot contain her excitement about being able to take the sweeper flight as she spent weeks waiting for this chance in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When the COVID-19 broke out and I realized that I cannot go home anymore, I was really shocked and disappointed. It was exhausting to wait for many weeks especially because I am afraid of the pandemic. I am very thankful for all the people in DOT-10 who made it possible for me to fly out to Vancouver even in a time like this,” Navaja said.