THE government’s repatriation program for distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) has generated about P96 million in income for hotels and accommodation facilities in the Subic Bay area in the last two months, boosting the local tourism industry despite travel restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the new revenue stream comes from room charges for the mandatory quarantine of OFWs and other returning overseas Filipinos who are brought home via the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).
The hotel charges are paid for by the national government under the Repatriation Assistance Program of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa).
Eisma said more than 4,300 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been repatriated through the SBIA ever since the Philippine Airlines used Subic as an alternate gateway for the repatriation program early last July.
She said 17 OFW flights had arrived in Subic since July, with at least 180 and up to more than 300 passengers per aircraft. While some flights had been diverted to Clark, the arriving passengers were all quarantined here in Subic.
Most of the passengers were land-based workers from Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, while some came from Macau. A few arrived with their dependents.
“At around P2,600 per OFW per day, and with the quarantine period ranging from seven to 10 days, hotels earn at least P18,200 or at most P26,000 for each arriving OFW. The more than 4,300 OFWs who have arrived in Subic under the repatriation program, therefore, translates to about P96 million in total hotel earnings for two months,” Eisma said.
The SBMA chief added that the OFW repatriation program “has been good for local hotels, which have been lacking customers since the pandemic began in March last year.”
“We are also happy to be able to help speed up the government’s repatriation program,” Eisma added.
According to the SBMA Tourism Department, a total of 23 hotels and accommodation facilities with combined capacity of close to a thousand rooms have signed up for the quarantine hotel program. Nineteen of these are in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone and four are in Olongapo City.
Eisma said the SBMA is encouraging more local hotels to sign up with the Department of Tourism for accreditation in the program.
The OFWs are billeted in the local hotels based on availability of rooms. With the latest PAL flights to Subic this month, for example, eight Subic Freeport hotels booked a total of 197 passengers while two Olongapo hotels got 137 arrivals on August 12.
On August 20, meanwhile, 189 arriving passengers were accommodated in nine Subic hotels, while an Olongapo hotel billeted 41.
As of August 15, the Owwa said it had repatriated 651,641 pandemic-affected OFWs since the government started the Covid-19 repatriation program in March last year. A total of 391,709 OFWs returned home last year, while 259,932 were brought back to the country this year.
Recently, the Owwa said it needed P7.5 billion more to augment its funds for the repatriation program that it expects to carry out at a rate of 2,000 OFWs each day until the end of this year. (Ric Sapnu)