The Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, in coordination with the MASHAV aid agency of Israel, repatriated a total of 260 stranded Filipino agricultural students. The repatriates flew onboard the first-ever El Al Airlines direct flight to Manila from Tel Aviv and arrived in Manila on 14 October. The said flight is the first of the two chartered flights to bring home 600 Filipino students whose internship program had just ended in September.
The returning students were part of an agricultural internship program called the Granot Agrostudies Program under the auspices of MASHAV, Israel’s agency for international development cooperation. The annual program has 30 participating Philippine State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) which sends Filipino agricultural students to train in Israeli farms and learn the latest agricultural techniques and practices. The 15th batch of 601 students started their internship in October 2019 and ended in September 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the current lockdown in Israel, their scheduled return flights were cancelled, which left them stranded in Israel for weeks.
Philippine Ambassador to Israel Neal Imperial, who sent off the students at the airport, lauded the program and challenged the students to make use of what they have learned in Israel. “I congratulate the Filipino student-interns of Academic Year 2019-2020 for successfully completing their 11-month combined practical work and academic training to learn Israeli agricultural technology, especially the latest techniques in farming. Even with the pandemic and the current national lockdown, I am happy that you are now able to return to the Philippines to see your families after one year of absence,” said Ambassador Imperial.
“You will now join a pool of more than 5,000 graduates of the program since 2005, equipped with new knowledge and expertise that can help boost Philippine agriculture. I therefore enjoin all of you to become 21st century farmers and agri-entrepreneurs to help our country achieve food security during this time of crisis and beyond,” the Ambassador added.
Ambassador Imperial was joined by MASHAV coordinator Ambassador Hanan Goder and Consul General Randy Arquiza at the send-off.
The Embassy considers the agricultural internship program an important pillar of Philippines-Israel development cooperation in the agricultural sector.