A Philippine Airlines (PAL) plane bringing home 299 returning Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) landed at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) on Wednesday, marking the first time that a passenger flight again arrived here since 2011.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma, who welcomed the arriving workers at the Subic tarmac, said PAL’s OFW flight was “a momentous occasion, as it marked the first time that the Subic airport served as an alternate entry point for OFWs wanting to return to the Philippines.”
“This is also the first time that a commercial flight arrived here in Subic after a decade of drought, the last one being the Astro Air flight that arrived here in 2011,” Eisma recalled.
Eisma said that it was more than a year ago when Senator Richard Gordon asked the government’s COVID-19 task force to open up Subic, Clark and Mactan airports to allow more passenger flights for Filipino migrant workers who were displaced by the Covid-19 pandemic and stranded in their host countries for months.
“After one year, here we are,” Eisma said. “And we hope that, aside from being able to help out in the repatriation of OFWs, this would be the start of regular passenger flights here in Subic,” the SBMA chief added.
PAL’s Flight PR5683 from Dammam, Saudi Arabia arrived here on Wednesday at 11:02 a.m. and was met with an inaugural water salute at the tarmac by a firetruck from the SBMA Fire Department.
The plane carried 293 OFWs, as well as four seamen and two returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs).
Eisma said the 299 passengers will be quarantined for from seven to 10 days in hotels and other accommodation facilities inside the Subic Bay Freeport that are duly accredited by the Department of Tourism (DOT) and certified by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ).
The flight on Wednesday was the second of six arrivals scheduled by PAL for Subic this month under the government’s program to facilitate the return of overseas Filipinos during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The first PAL flight that was supposed to arrive in Subic on Monday was rerouted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) at the Clark Freeport Zone due to strong tailwinds. The plane, also originated from Dammam and carried 309 OFWs, two seamen, and one ROF.
The next flight schedules to Subic will be on July 15, 17, 25, and 27 with an average of 230 passengers in each of the PAL Airbus A330 flights.
Eisma said OFW flights to Subic is in line with the policy of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) to impose a limit for all international airports in the country to accommodate just 1,500 passengers per day. Because of this, PAL has distributed its flights to various airports to accommodate the market, she added.
The SBMA chief said earlier that the OFW arrivals would create “positive impact on local tourism that would also redound to the benefit of workers, business establishments, and service operators in our communities.”
She also said that accommodation facilities outside the Subic Bay Freeport may also benefit from any overflow that may ensue from the arrival of returning overseas workers via Subic.