By Roy Mabasa
The Philippine government will only have until today, March 27, 2020, to assist foreign governments and embassies in extricating their respective nationals from different localities in the country through quarantine checkpoints en route to the international airports due to manpower and resources issue, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. indicated on Thursday night.
“I will announce to the foreign embassies that tomorrow (March 27) is the last day we do humanitarian missions to take foreign tourists to our international airports where they can take sweeper flights organized and paid for by their governments,” Locsin said in a series of tweets.
Locsin, however, assured that the foreign nationals can still leave the country “anytime they please” without paying penalties for overstaying their visas while their respective governments will have to bear the costs of gathering them for flights out of the country.
“We are exhausted and have done more than expected,” he said, adding that the Philippine government is “at the end of the tether” and “stretched so thin”.
He commended Germany, France, Denmark and Russia for doing their part in providing flights out which, he said, are getting “scarcer.”
Locsin also lauded the Philippine Air Force for its help in fetching stragglers to fill up the foreign mercy flights.
He said the Philippine government will remain steadfast in the shared aim to get those who want to go but the main burden of extricating these foreign nationals will have to be borne by their embassies and home governments.
“I and the DFA will always be available to help gather the stragglers, talk restrictive local government to let them go through quarantines, give whatever help we can extend; but we’re stretched so thin… I hope you understand,” Locsin said in a tweet apparently directed to foreign governments and embassies.
Since last week, several foreign governments have been busy running round-the-clock operations locating and gathering their respective citizens who are vacationing in key tourist spots in the country such as Palawan, Bohol, Cebu, Boracay and Siargao.
The rush to send sweeper flights to extricate foreign nationals in the Philippines was prompted by an earlier recommendation by the Inter-Agency Task Force asking foreign nationals to leave the country within a 72-hour window as part of its quarantine measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The said order was eventually recalled at the requests of some foreign governments who needed more time to collect their citizens for special flights out of the country.