The Bureau of Immigration (BI) announced the resumption of its operations at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA), a decade after it withdrew its presence there when international flights stopped at the former US naval base a decade ago.
Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente said the BI returned to the SBIA on Wednesday as a Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight, carrying 300 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Saudi Arabia, landed at the airport, marking the first time an international passenger flight arrived there since 2011.
PAL’s maiden flight to the airport was supposed to land last Monday but the aircraft, which carried 309 OFWs and other returning Filipinos from Saudi Arabia, was diverted to the Clark International Airport (CIA) due to bad weather.
Morente welcomed the resumption of international flights in Subic, saying it is an encouraging sign that there is hope that international travel will slowly return to normal after more than a year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
BI returns to Subic after a decade
He assured PAL and other airlines that may be planning to mount similar flights to Subic that the BI is always ready to field the sufficient number of personnel needed to facilitate the smooth conduct of immigration arrival formalities for their passengers.
Atty. Carlos Capulong, BI Port Operations Division chief, said a team of several 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.
Capulong said 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.