MANILA – Close to 200 Chinese travelers stranded in the Philippines following the travel ban over the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) have left the country, the Bureau of Immigration said Thursday.
Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said 177 Chinese, mostly tourists, left the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 at 9:06 p.m. Wednesday on board a chartered flight arranged by the Chinese Embassy in Manila.
“Nahihirapan sila mag-book ng ticket kasi wala outbound flights dahil nag-cancel na ang mga airlines,” she said.
(They were having difficulty booking a ticket because airlines have cancelled outbound flights.)
“Parang mga OFWs natin na gusto nila umuwi kasi nahihirapan na din sila mag-book ng flights to go home,” she added.
(They’re like our overseas Filipino workers who want to go home but find it difficult to book flights.)
Philippine carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL), Cebu Pacific and Air Asia have cancelled flights to mainland China after the Philippine government imposed a travel ban on February 2.
The ban prohibits foreigners who travelled to China in the past 14 days from entering the Philippines and bars Filipinos from travelling to China, except in certain circumstances.
PAL has announced it would mount special flights on Feb. 10 from Manila to Xiamen and back to service stranded Filipinos.
The travel ban came amid the quick spread of the 2019-nCoV, the outbreak of which began in Wuhan, China. The Philippines has confirmed three cases of the virus here- all Chinese citizens who had come from Wuhan. One of the patients died on Saturday, becoming the first death from the virus outside China.
Sandoval said the Chinese nationals who left Wednesday make up the first group to leave the country. Many more stranded Chinese citizens are expected to follow suit but Immigration authorities are still waiting for information from the Chinese Embassy on the next scheduled flights.
Sandoval earlier said around 300 Chinese travelers were stranded at the Manila airport because of the cancellation of flights due to the travel ban.