No food, no room: Flight disruptions ease but still torment some OFWs

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 20 2018 09:36 AM | Updated as of Aug 20 2018 10:17 AM

MANILA - Some overseas Filipino workers slept on the floor of the country's main airport and grappled with limited funds on Monday even as the number of cancelled flights went down after the closure of a runway here.

A Chinese airplane skidded off the runway and ripped off its left engine on late Thursday, blocking off the runway at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport until Saturday noon.

Authorities deferred repair and maintenance operations on the runway from 12 to 6 a.m. Monday to give way to flights. At least 16 domestic trips remained cancelled, down from some 200 scrapped flights over the weekend.

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Some OFWs are still waiting for word on the rescheduling of their flights. Among them was the Jeddah-bound Shirley Sagayno, who slept on a cardboard sheet on the floor, surrounded by other travelers who napped in chairs.

Sagayno, who is from Davao, was supposed to leave the country last Friday. She said she can no longer afford food sold at the airport because her allowance is almost gone.

Other travelers, meanwhile, contended with long lines at check-in counters.

Airlines and the government have been distributing food to stranded passengers, said Overseas Workers Welfare Administration administrator Hans Leo Cacdac.

OFWs may also seek help at the labor department's NAIA assistance center, Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said.

Scores of OFWs have expressed fear that they could lose their jobs or face jail time for failing to return to their employers on time amid the airport mess.

OWWA will endorse stranded OFWs to the labor and foreign affairs department so that authorities can explain their situation to their employers, said Cacdac.

Cacdac said he does not have a tally of OFWs affected by flight disruptions, but noted that some 100 workers approached the assistance center on Sunday.

Officials earlier said moving the Xiamen Airlines plane was complicated by heavy rains that softened the ground, making it difficult to install the 2 cranes needed to lift the aircraft.

Investigators had recovered the plane's black box and flight data recorder and would be summoning the pilots next week to find the cause of the mishap, said Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines spokesman Eric Apolonio.

The Senate will question airport managers on why it took 2 days to remove the Xiamen Airlines aircraft from the runway, Senator Grace Poe said Sunday.

The House of Representatives will also investigate the issue, said Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento, who chairs the transportation panel.

With reports from Dennis Datu and Henry Atuelan, ABS-CBN News