Nearly 700 stranded foreigners airlifted out of Palawan, Mindanao

JC Gotinga
Nearly 700 stranded foreigners airlifted out of Palawan, Mindanao
(UPDATED) Foreign tourists are stranded amid suspension of mass transport, including air travel, all over the country in a bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease

PALAWAN, Philippines (UPDATED) – Over 700 foreign nationals stranded in Palawan and Mindanao islands were airlifted to Manila this week. 

Three chartered flights flew 540 foreign tourists out of Palawan on Thursday, March 26, while 150 foreign nationals were flown out of Cagayan de Oro on Wednesday. 

They were stranded amid suspension of mass transport, including air travel, all over the country in a bid to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus disease.

The country recorded at least 636 coronavirus cases, including 38 deaths, as of Wednesday. 

Thousands stranded in Palawan

Palawan provincial tourism officer Maribel Buñi said the 3 chartered flights of Cebu Pacific that departed Palawan on Thursday were the latest among several mercy flights that the province arranged for stranded local and foreign tourists. 

A Philippine military aircraft earlier also flew over a dozen Russian tourists to Cebu, where a chartered flight bound for Russia awaited them. It prompted allegations of special treatment in favor of the Russians. 

Buñi said they were arranging for at least one more chartered flight for around 200 more foreigners who were stranded.

The province recorded 2,000 tourists on the island when Malacanañang ordered the Luzon-wide lockdown. They were visiting Puerto Princesa City and the towns of El Nido and San Vicente. 

Palawan recorded its first coronavirus case on March 21. The 26-year-old male Australian tourist flew out of the city on March 17 through one of these mercy flights. 

Lockdowns in Mindanao

In Cagayan de Oro, up to 150 foreign nationals stranded in different parts of Mindanao were flown out of Laguindingan Airport on Wednesday.

The different local government units in the Visayas and Mindanao also imposed measures to prevent the disease from spreading in their areas. 

Among the foreign nationals airlifted out of Cagayan de Oro were two Russian families from Bukidnon. They tried to travel to nearby Davao City, but commercials flights were canceled in the city. 

They travelled again to Cagayan de Oro, where they waited for the mercy flight.

“They were escorted to Laguindingan Airport,” said Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno. 

The chartered flight of Cebu Pacific left the airport at 3:30 pm on Wednesady. 

Department of Tourism Undersecretary Arturo Boncato Jr. wrote to the Misamis Oriental government to allow chartered flights to airlift 229 foreign nationals stranded in the Northern Mindanao region alone. – Rappler.com

(Editor’s note: The initial version of this story erroneously said 2,000 tourists have been flown out of the island.)

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JC Gotinga

JC Gotinga often reports about the West Philippine Sea, the communist insurgency, and terrorism as he covers national defense and security for Rappler. He enjoys telling stories about his hometown, Pasig City. JC has worked with Al Jazeera, CNN Philippines, News5, and CBN Asia.