More than 400 French nationals and citizens from other European Union states who were stranded in the Philippines were finally flown to France and other EU countries last Wednesday, while foreigners continued to leave the country amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The French government organized a second special flight operated by Qatar Airways on April 1 at a negotiated rate in order to bring home 390 French tourists and 22 other nationals from various EU states who were stranded in the Philippines.
The French nationals were flown in to France from Cebu and Manila, the French Embassy said in a statement.
French officials on Thursday thanked the Philippine government for helping arrange their flight back home.
The two flights organized by the French government last March 24 and April 1 have allowed the return to France of 796 French nationals, the French embassy said.
Manila has banned the entry of most foreign nationals and extended assistance to foreign tourists and travelers who wanted to fly out of the country amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The French embassy thanked Filipino authorities for the active and constant support that they extended in the organization of this flight and in the success of this operation.
The French embassy likewise thanked Qatar Airways for providing them the special flights.
The embassy said it will continue its efforts “to ensure that tourists from France and from other European countries may be able to return to their respective countries at the soonest possible time.”
Tourists were stranded after countries worldwide imposed lockdowns and mass quarantines due to the fast spreading COVID-19, which has sent governments and citizens around the globe reeling since its emergence in China in late 2019.
Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. had said that these foreign countries were to have flights to the Philippines to fetch their stranded citizens amid the “enhanced community quarantine” in Luzon.
“Foreign governments sending flights to pick up stranded nationals, DFA making sure no hitches. But if they miss the flights we lift ban on travel to get (them out) of our country,” Locsin tweeted.
Locsin added foreigners who want to stay during the quarantine are welcome, and shouldn’t worry about visa extension./Stacy Ang