PAL agrees to airlift 800 OFWs in charter flights

By Recto Mercene, BusinessMirror

Posted at Aug 08 2014 07:51 AM | Updated as of Aug 08 2014 03:51 PM

Philippine Airlines (PAL) is sending two airplanes chartered by the government to airlift Filipino evacuees from Malta on August 12. It is estimated to arrive in Manila on August 13, carrying about 800 of the 1,036 overseas Filipino workers who have registered their willingness to leave strife-torn Libya.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that it has chartered two Pal B777s capable of carrying 350 passengers each.

However, Pal sources said its six B777s are serving the London and US routes and pulling out two of their wide-body aircraft might disrupt flight schedules.

Instead, Pal said it might be sending either an A340 or A330HGW, each of which could carry 400 passengers.

“PAL’s A330 are flying out of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and it would be easier to pull them out there and be sent to Malta,” the same source added.

Malta is an island in the Mediterranean Sea that is some 300 kilometers away from Libya.

It would take about nine hours to fly from Malta directly to Manila.

It was learned that the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration provided most of the financial assistance in the evacuation of Filipino migrant workers in Libya, except those employed by Japanese companies who agreed to shoulder the cost of transporting their employees.

Thus far, the DFA has evacuated as estimated 1,000 OFWs to the Philippines since trouble erupted in Libya last month. Close to 600 also escaped Tripoli by land and another 400 employed by Hyundai after the border with Tunisia was opened, Foreign Spokesman Charles Jose said.

The DFA issued an order for the “mandatory” evacuation of all Filipinos in Libya last month, after the beheading of a Filipino construction worker abducted by unknown suspects in the eastern city of Benghazi.

That killing was followed by the abduction and gang-rape of a Filipino nurse in Tripoli on Wednesday.

Hundreds of Filipino doctors and nurses in Tripoli’s Medical Center walked out in protest following the gang-rape of a Filipino nurse, an incident that helped provoke trouble in the hospital.

The DFA said it would try to evacuate all of the 13,000 Filipino migrant workers in Libya but that only 1,036 have registered to board a sea vessel capable of accommodating 1,500 passengers.

Jose said that on August 5 a ship docked in Benghazi port to pick up 436 OFWs. This operation lasted about 5 hours and the following day the ship dropped anchor in Misrata to pick up an additional 602 OFW’s before sailing to Malta.

“After Misrata, the ship sails for Malta and upon docking, Philippine authorities will transport them to the Malta International Airport where we have already chartered two planes from Pal,” Jose said.

Although more than one thousand have registered, the DFA is unsure how many would actually board the ship since many more Filipino workers opted to stay for fear of losing their jobs once they leave Tripoli, Jose added.

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