The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Sunday assured that it has deployed adequate personnel to serve passengers of repatriation and sweeper flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) amid the ongoing enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
“In the past few days, there have been several special and chartered flights that fly in and out of NAIA. We assure our stakeholders, especially the different airlines and foreign embassies that our men are always on hand to serve flights 24 hours a day,” BI Commissioner Jaime Morente said in a statement.
Morente said the bulk of the special flights were chartered to ferry Filipinos, mostly overseas workers, who were stranded abroad, while there were also several sweeper flights chartered by the different embassies in the Philippines to ferry their citizens who were stranded due to the ECQ.
“Although we are on skeletal deployment, our officers at the NAIA continue to report in three shifts a day, so as to ensure that passengers of these flights are subjected to the required immigration inspection,” he said.
BI port operations division chief Grifton Medina said over 1,400 Filipino seafarers arrived at the NAIA on Good Friday alone and were processed by immigration officers after undergoing health inspection by the Bureau of Quarantine.
Last Tuesday, Medina said a sweeper flight by Philippine Airlines (PAL) flew out of the NAIA to London with 290 British passengers on board.
He added that PAL has notified BI that it will be flying three more sweeper flights this week to ferry stranded citizens of Canada and Australia back to their homelands.
“Our records show that from March 30 to April 8 a total of 140 flights arrived at the NAIA Terminal 1, while 126 flights departed,” Medina said.
He said the bulk of those who arrived were Filipinos numbering 11,660 while the rest were foreigners totaling 581. There were 5,831 foreigners and 1,728 Filipinos who departed during the same period.
“There are very little commercial flights left. Today (Sunday), there are only 10 arriving and departing flights in NAIA Terminal 1,” he said.
Morente, meanwhile, compared regular operations to current operations but said he remains hopeful that the disease will be eliminated soon.
“This is a far cry from our regular operations when we would often need to tap our reserve officers to service the influx of travelers during the Holy Week. These are indeed different times, but our men remain dedicated to their duties as one of the front-liners in the fight against Covid-19,” he added.