By Jun Nucum
After a long wait onboard their cruise ship, Filipino passengers and crewmembers have been finally repatriated back to the Philippines on Saturday March 14 and are under a 14-day quarantine.
The repatriation came after persistent efforts of coordination were undertaken by the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco (PCG-SF) and the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. with U.S. federal and state governments, Carnival Corp and the Philippine government authorities
In all, a total of 444 Filipinos, 438 crew members and six passengers, disembarked M/V Grand Princess after health screenings conducted by United States Department of Health and Human Services and they took a 747 charter flight that left San Francisco International Airport Saturday that was expected to arrive at the Haribon Hangar in Clark Airbase in Pampanga.
Ninety-one (91) of the Filipino crew members, however, have decided to be left behind the Grand Princess to continue their tasks in manning as part of the Minimum Safe Manning and Minimum Operational Manning teams of the ship.
Details on the repatriation were worked out with PCG-SF headed Consul General Henry S. Bensurto, Jr. in the coordination with U.S. authorities and Carnival Corp.
Upon reaching the Philippines, the repatriates are to undergo a 14-day quarantine period at the Athlete’s Village in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac under the full medical supervision of the Department of Health medical professionals.
As for Filipinos who were tested positive for COVID-19, the PCG-SF learned from U.S. state authorities on 13 March that they will be taken out of the ship and given appropriate medical attention.
The assurance came after the Consulate earlier appealed to U.S. authorities to allow the Filipinos who tested positive for the virus to disembark and be given medical treatment in an appropriate facility inland.
The Philippine Department of Health reported that there were six Filipinos that tested positive for COVID-19.
As Bensurto hopes that the disembarkation and subsequent repatriation process is completed smoothly as scheduled, he expressed appreciation for the successful coordination between U.S and Philippine authorities with the cruise ship management.
“We are very grateful for the assistance of U.S. government authorities, including California Governor Gavin Newsom, Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, and the state government of California, the U.S. Department of State and its Office of Foreign Missions in San Francisco, led by Regional Director Clayton Stanger and Assistant Director Mr. Matthew Davis, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES), Director Mark Ghilarducci, San Francisco City and County Mayor London Breed, Oakland Mayor Elizabeth Libby Schaaf, Offices of Senator Dianne Feinstein, Representative Barbara Lee, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Carnival Corp.’s Senior Vice President Michael Kaczmarek and Director for Maritime Security Ricardo Karakadze, Ms. Helen Lopez and Mr. Reggie Salvador of CalOES, Ms. Ann O’Leary and Ms. Priscilla Cheng of the California Governor’s Office, Senior Adviser to Mayor Breed Ms. Marjan Philhour, and Senior Protocol Officer of the San Francisco Mayor’s Office Ms. Natalie Waugh, our Philippine government officials in Manila and Philippine Ambassador Jose Manuel Romualdez, and the Consulate General team,” a relieved Bensurto conveyed.
The PCG-SF also announced that consular services will be suspended from 17 March to 10 April 2020 pursuant to the public address of President Rodrigo Duterte on the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) on 12 March 2020, the Declaration of Local Health Emergency by San Francisco Mayor London Breed through Public Health Order No. C19-07, the announcement of the Philippine Consulate General in New York on a diplomat in the Philippine Center having tested positive for coronavirus disease, and in light of developments on the COVID-19 situation in the Bay Area,
As a result of the suspension, new appointments should be secured by applicants for passport, legal and notarial services, civil registration, dual citizenship, and visa applicants beginning 17 March until April 10, 2020 or until the public order of Mayor Breed is amended.
Civil registration and visa applicants are also strongly advised to refer to the Consulate’s website at http://www.philippinessanfrancisco.org/philippines-sf/home-sf/ for the list of requirements.
The Consulate will continue to accept applications for services only on medical, death in the family and legal emergencies pertaining to court summons and subpoena emergency bases only.
Their requests for an appointment with corresponding proof of emergency must be sent by email at email@example.com.
Dual citizenship applicants will also have their oath taking ceremonies postponed indefinitely until such time the situation in the Bay Area is normalized.
Announcement on its resumption and new schedule will be announced in the PCG-SF website.
The Consulate continues to appeal to the public to postpone their visit to the Consulate if their transactions are not urgent in order to minimize exposure to COVID-19.