Ministry of Foreign Affairs arranges return of 275 passengers from Philippines
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation has just arranged the return of 275 tourists to Spain, who were stranded on different islands in the Philippines due to the severe restrictions imposed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, of which 157 are Spanish, 106 are from the European Union or other Europeans (Norway, Switzerland and United Kingdom), and 12 are citizens of other nationalities.

The complex operation, preceded by an extensive build-up operation on which the Spanish Embassy in the Philippines had been working hard to arrange getting all the passengers together in Manila, the departure point for the plane that is due to arrive in Spain on Friday.

The direct arrangements by the embassy with the Ministry of Transport and Coast Guard of the Philippine helped make official vessels available to Spain so that a total of 38 travellers on the islands of Siquijor, Dumaguete and Bohol could be transported to Cebu. 14 other Spaniards were also helped to travel to Cebu from the island of Malpascua, together with two Italians, in addition to another four Spaniards who were on the island of Bantayan.

Accordingly, a flight was organised from Cebu to Manila with 130 people on-board, as was another flight from Siargao to Puerto Princesa and then on to Manila with another 61 passengers on-board, in addition to another 26 travellers who arrived from other points on the island of Luzon who went directly to Manila International Airport.

Despite the severe restrictions in place in the country, the Spanish Embassy obtained the corresponding authorisations so that both those flights that collected passengers from the islands and the plane that is taking them back to Madrid could operate in a very restricted airspace.

Each of the passengers was monitored individually by phone and/or email until such time as they were able to reach the meeting point, which they were able to access by presenting a personalised document issued by the Spanish Consulate, a copy of which was forwarded to each provincial office of the Philippine Ministry of Tourism. The embassy also spoke with ministers, governors and the mayors of each of the islands on which passengers were located to guarantee their mobility.

Before leaving on the plane from Manila International Airport, each passenger was given a face mask by the Iberia plane crew, and the bars and restaurants frequented by Spaniards in Manila offered them a snack before leaving.

As a result of this operation, carried out under the European Civil Protection Mechanism, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation has now facilitated the return of some 600 Spaniards since the start of the lockdown in the Philippines on 15 March. A total of 94 Spanish tourists expressed their interest in remaining in the Philippines for different reasons while European citizens that are still trying to get out of the country number some 1,200.


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