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Gordon bats for reopening of Subic airport to accommodate returning displaced OFWs

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By JOHN CARLO M. CAHINHINAN

Senator Richard Gordon has reiterated his call for the country’s transportation officials to open up the Subic Bay International Airport and divert flights of overseas Filipino workers there to facilitate their testing so they can immediately come home to their respective provinces.

Gordon made the remarks as more than 300,000 OFWs displaced by the global coronavirus pandemic are expected to arrive in the next three to four months.

Gordon stressed that that Subic and Clark airport facilities are very suitable for accommodating arriving OFWs because since it has a seaport and a quarantine facility, as well as numerous hotels that can be used to accommodate arriving overseas workers.

“More than 300,000 OFWs may be coming. Now we have an airport here and may seaport. So ‘yung iba pwedeng dalhin dito at ite-test dito ng Coast Guard at merong quarantine facility ditto na nilagay… marami ring hotel dito na pwedeng paglagyan,” said Gordon.

Gordon who is chairman and CEO of the Philippine Red Cross also noted that testing incoming OFWs for COVID-19 would not pose a problem with the newly opened PRC molecular laboratory in Subic and Clark which has the combined capacity for running up to 4,000 tests a day.

“Pag tinest sila, dapat di tatagal ng dalawa, tatlong araw, makukuha nila ‘yung result at makakauwi sila kaagad. Kahapon kinausap ko si Sec. Art Tugade at sabi ko Art, matagal ka nang nangangako sa kin, buksan mo na ‘yung airport ng Subic para diyan mag-landing ‘yung ibang OFWs para ma-test na sila kaagad-agad,” he added.

Gordon also pointed out that ships carrying Filipino seafarers that are also expected to arrive can dock at the Subic seaport where it would be easier for trained members of the Philippine Coast Guard to go up the vessels and swab the seafarers.

“Dati sa Manila Bay sila nagte-test, ang hirap pumasok. Sa Subic, kalmado ang tubig kaya mas madaling pasukin ng Coast Guard ‘yung mga barko para makapag-swab sila sa mga seafarers,” he said.

Gordon explained that using the Subic Airport—used to be the hub for the Asian operations of American multinational delivery services FedEx Corporation—to divert OFW flights as the country battles with the COVID pandemic, “could jumpstart the resumption of its operations for international flights and reactivate its tourism industry.”

Congress has allocated P500-million for the rehabilitation of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) in the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).

The former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chair has called for the reopening of SBIA for international flights to boost tourism in the area.

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