SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines — Philippine Airlines (PAL) landed its last “Bayanihan” repatriation flight on Tuesday, ending its nine (9) months of flying home Overseas Filipino Eorkers (OFWs) and other returning Filipinos via Subic Bay Freeport Zone.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority's (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said that the government’s repatriation flights to Subic Bay Freeport were stopped after the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was allowed to increase the capacity of inbound international passengers as coronavirus disease (Covid-19) restrictions were eased.
“So, there’s no more need for PAL to reroute O.F.W. flights via Subic. It is a bittersweet moment for us because PAL’s repatriation flights here somewhat revived our airport operations and brought much-needed income to Subic hotels during the Covid-19 pandemic,” Ms. Eisma said in a statement.
“Still, the lifting of passenger capacity limit at the NAIA is a sign that we are going back to normal and this is most welcome,” she added.
The last flight into Subic Bay International Airport carried 77 passengers from Koror City in Palau, an archipelago of islands southeast of the Philippines with a substantial population of Filipino contract workers.
At the height of the O.F.W. repatriation program, Subic was connected to areas including Riyadh and Dammam in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the U.A.E., Doha in Qatar, Macau, Palau, and Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
Zharrex Santos, the manager of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA), said that the country's flagship airline made a total of 82 repatriation flights, bringing home a total of 20,522 passengers, all of whom were subjected to mandatory quarantine in Subic hotels.
As of February 6th, the sea-side airport has generated more than PHP4.2 million in direct income from airline's repatriation flights, Mr. Santos said.
Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines consultant Charlie Yu expressed their gratitude to the S.B.M.A., Bureau of Immigration, Bureau of Customs, Philippine National Police, Philippine Coast Guard, Overseas Workers Welfare Association, and the Bureau of Quarantine for efficiently handling the repatriation program via the Subic Bay airport.