Sweeper flight transports 120 stranded foreign tourists

26 May 2020


LAGUINDINGAN, MISAMIS ORIENTAL- Foreign tourists who were left stranded in different regions of Mindanao were transported to Manila and onward to their home countries through a sweeper flight that was spearheaded by the American Embassy, Australian Embassy, and Philippine Airlines (PAL) in coordination with the Department of Tourism-Region 10.

The said foreign tourists who came from Regions 9, 10, and 13 were composed of 35 Australians, 35 Americans, 14 Koreans, 7 Canadians, 3 Swedish, 3 Germans, 3 UAE nationals, 2 Chinese, 2 Japanese, 6 Irish, 1 Singaporean, 1 Finnish, 1 Chilean, 1 Iranian, 1 Dutch, 1 Swiss, 1 French, 1 Spanish, 1 Thai, and 1 Austrian national.

As per travel safety protocol, the Regional Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) and PAL strictly imposed their requirements before allowing the passengers to purchase a ticket. These requirements were:

  1. A foreign passport;

  2. A Health Certificate stating that they do not bear symptoms related to COVID-19 and are fit to travel signed by the City or Municipal Health Officer;

  3. Confirmed onward flight ticket to their home country; and

  4. A hotel booking in Manila if their international flight is not in the same day as the sweeper flight.

The sweeper flight was also made possible with the help of the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental, the Municipal Government of Laguindingan, concerned Region 10 LGUs, the Department of Health – Region 10 (DOH 10), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the Office of Civil Defense – Region 10 (OCD-10), the Department of Interior and Local Government – Region 10 (DILG 10), the Department of Foreign Affairs – Region 10 (DFA-10), the Philippine National Police (PNP), and members of the private sector such as PAL, New Dawn Hotel Pus and Red Planet Hotel.

One American permanent resident Grelita Gelsinger shares that she has been stranded in Ozamiz for almost 3 months before the sweeper flight. She was very worried because she only planned to stay in the Philippines for a short while and she needed to go home to her family in California. However, the events that followed after the entrance of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Philippines hindered her to travel back home separating her from her family for longer than she wanted to.

“My husband tried to contact the US Embassy here in the Philippines and what they told him was that we should contact DOT 10. I could not be more thankful for everything because it was so scary being stranded back there in Ozamiz City knowing that my family is there in the US. I really had to go home and I am glad for the brand of service that DOT has shown as well as that of the other agencies because they made it possible for us, for me.” she said.

Department of Tourism-Region 10 Director Marie Elaine S. Unchuan expressed her happiness and gratitude to the offices and agencies that made the sweeper flight operations possible. “As always, rain or shine, in good times and bad, I think the Filipino brand of hospitality really shines bright. Specially in the darkest of times, we see the resilience and the love of the Filipinos for the tourists and other countries. I’ve seen this most especially amongst the Filipino frontliners. I think that it brings out the best in the Filipinos not only with the DOT but with the other agencies. such as the PIA, the PNP, the DFA, the DOH in the frontlines, and all the local government units involved. It’s very nice to see the bayanihan spirit working together,” Unchuan said.

Since March, DOT-10 has coordinated eleven sweeper flight operations and has repatriated a total of 652 stranded foreign tourists in Mindanao.