Manila, Philippines – Over 1,000 domestic tourists who were stranded in various tourist destinations in the country have returned home, mostly in Metro Manila, with the assistance of the Department of Tourism (DOT).
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said the groups of domestic tourists arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from various local airports on seven (7) sweeper flights arranged by the DOT and its attached agency, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) from May 1 to 2.
Last April 28, the DOT was given approval by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) to charter and fund sweeper flights for qualified stranded local tourists from other regions to the National Capital Region (NCR).
“We are thankful for the opportunity to respond alongside the front-liners who persevere to attend to the needs of the public under these difficult circumstances. The DOT prioritizes the safety and security of stranded international and local tourists as they return home,” said Secretary Puyat.
A total of 1,049 distressed travelers reached Manila in succeeding schedules. On Friday, 180 tourists arrived from Puerto Princesa, 60 from El Nido and 144 from Boracay.
On Saturday, 136 tourists from Region 13 flew in from Butuan, including stranded visitors in Siargao, Surigao City and Cagayan de Oro City. 150 tourists who returned from Region 6 arrived from Iloilo City, including travelers from Bacolod, Antique and Capiz, and from Region 7, while 177 arrived from Mactan-Cebu.
The biggest chunk came from the combined groups from Region 11 and Region 12. A total of 201 stranded domestic tourists in Davao and Soccsksargen Regions boarded the Davao-Manila sweeper flight sponsored by the DOT. The 169 passengers from all over Davao Region and 33 passengers from Soccsksargen Region had been stranded in Mindanao for a total of 48 days since the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) was enforced in Manila and in Mindanao, said Director Tanya Rabat-Tan of Region 11.
DOT-NCR Regional Director Woodrow C. Maquiling, Jr., added that the returning travelers were subjected to rapid anti-body testing at the airport. None of them tested positive for the Coronavirus.
Meanwhile, seven (7) buses, complete with DOT-accredited tour guides on board, chartered by the regional office brought home those residing in Metro Manila areas.
Complementing the chartered buses were three (3) buses from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and five (5) e-jeepneys from the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
Sec. Puyat assured that the domestic tourists were given the Unimpeded Pass to use all the way to their respective residential communities, in coordination with the different local government units (LGUs) of Metro Manila through the NCR-Tourism Officers Association (NCR-TOA), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) and the Office of the Civil Defense-NCR (OCD-NCR).
Bus stops were designated as drop-off points including: Manila City Hall, for those residing in Manila; SM Hypermarket (formerly Gotesco) in Caloocan; Centris, Quezon City; Makati Ave. corner Paseo de Roxas, Makati; Mandaluyong City Hall; and Muntinlupa City Hall.
Buses bound for SM Clark shuttled all Northbound passengers, with the following bus stops: Balintawak toll gate; NLEX Shell gas station in Balagtas, Bulacan; and Dau exit.
Meanwhile, non-NCR residents were transported by their respective local government units’ services.
To date, the DOT has assisted some 22,264 foreign visitors and 2,505 local tourists stranded in the past month-and-half under ECQ, by arranging sweeper flights from various domestic gateways and facilitating repatriation flights mounted by foreign governments.