Filipinos stranded in Bethlehem; group from Macau flown home
MANILA, Philippines — Government assistance for Filipinos facing the threat of the new coronavirus overseas focused on two fronts over the weekend.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Saturday said it had assisted 103 Filipino pilgrims who were stranded in Bethlehem in the West Bank due to Israel’s decision to close its borders following an outbreak of the virus in that region.
Also on Saturday, another large group of stranded Filipinos was flown home with the help of the DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.
‘Scary’ in Bethlehem
It was former presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda who relayed to the DFA the situation of the Filipino pilgrims in Bethlehem, quoting one of them in a post on social media.
“I, together with more than 100 Filipino tourists are stranded inside two buses in Bethlehem where there is now a lockdown because of COVID[-19]. Israel would not let us in,” read Lacierda’s post.
“We want to go home even if the tour is not over. We have to cross Israel, somebody please help us,” it added.
According to Lacierda, the stranded travelers said they had no food and had to remain on their buses because hotels and restaurants were closed.
Through Lacierda, the DFA advised tourists to go to Palestine’s border with Jordan, where Philippine Consul General Randy Arquiza later assisted them.
“Thank you. We were stranded for eight hours. Scary,” Lacierda’s post said, quoting his contact.
Israel has imposed a lockdown on Bethlehem in coordination with the Palestinian Authority.
Meanwhile, a group of 163 Filipinos arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport after being stranded in the Chinese administrative region due to the suspension of flights to the Philippines.
Cruise ship situation
They were composed of 130 undocumented and irregular Filipino workers, 28 documented workers and five infants.Philippine officials continued to monitor the situation of the cruise ship MV Grand Princess in the United States.
On Saturday, World Health Organization country representative Rabindra Abeyasinghe cited unconfirmed reports that six of the 21 on board who have tested positive for the virus are Filipinos.
But Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said on Saturday night, “As of today, no Pinoy on the cruise ship has been [infected].”
There are a total of 518 Filipinos on the ship, all crew members. The vessel has a total of 3,533 people on board, 2,422 of them guests.
—Jovic Yee and Jerome Aning
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