MANILA – The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday announced the resumption of its operations at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) in Olongapo City in Zambales 10 years after it ceased operations when international flights stopped at the former United States naval base.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, in a statement, said their operations returned at the airport on Wednesday as a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight, carrying 300 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), arrived at the airport.
It is the first time an international passenger flight has arrived there since 2011.
The flag carrier’s maiden flight to Subic was supposed to land last Monday but the aircraft was diverted to the Clark International Airport (CIA) due to bad weather.
It carried 309 OFWs and other returning Filipinos from KSA.
On the other hand, the BI chief welcomed the resumption of international flights in Subic, which is an encouraging sign that international travel is slowly returning to normal after more than a year of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
He assured airlines companies that are planning to mount similar flights to SBIA that they are always ready to field needed personnel to facilitate the smooth conduct of immigration arrival formalities for their passengers.
Meanwhile, lawyer Carlos Capulong, BI Port Operations Division chief, said a team of immigration officers, immigration supervisors, and intelligence agents currently assigned at the Clark airport have been directed to be on-call for deployment to Subic whenever there are flights scheduled to arrive there.
He added that the BI may decide to permanently deploy immigration personnel at Subic should international flights there become more frequent in the future.
“As of now, it is only PAL that has informed us of its intention to mount flights to Subic. We were told that this July there are four flights from Saudi Arabia that will be landing there,” Capulong said.
PAL has reportedly informed the BI that it needed to mount the flights to Subic to facilitate the repatriation of thousands of OFWs, seafarers, and other Filipinos who were stranded in the Middle East due to the pandemic. (PNA)