The Philippine Embassy in Israel arranged the second El Al Airlines chartered direct flight to Manila from Tel Aviv which flew back to the Philippines the next batch of 255 more stranded Filipino agricultural students from Israel. The repatriation flight, coordinated by the Philippine Embassy and the MASHAV aid agency of Israel, arrived in Manila on October 21. The first chartered direct El Al repatriation flight brought home 260 students a week earlier on October 13.
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 send Filipino agricultural students to train in Israeli farms and learn the latest agricultural techniques and practices. The 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, causing them to be stranded in Israel for weeks.
Consul General Randy Arquiza, Assistance-To-Nationals Officer Emmanuel Arbado and Attache Jamelle Fabroa were at the Ben Gurion Airport to send off the students.
The last group of 57 students will fly on October 23 via a commercial flight.
During the pandemic, the Philippine Embassy has facilitated two repatriation flights of 91 overseas Filipinos (OFs) under the Voluntary Repatriation Program (VRP) of Israel’s Population and Immigration Authority (PIBA) and the six repatriation flights of 599 agriculture students.
The Philippine Embassy considers the agricultural internship program an important pillar of Philippines-Israel development cooperation in the agricultural sector.