THAT IS the Clark International Airport, at least to returning residents and OFWs in various stages of distress caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
Where NAIA fell flat on its face and stayed down on all fours, CRK made it simple par for the course.
On June 14, over 600 Filipinos who flew back to the country via the CRK were sent to their respective home destinations, just three days after their arrival. No, government authorities did not scrimp on, much less forego, quarantine protocols.
Swab-tested upon arrival was this batch that flew in from Dubai composed of 347 seafarers from the Royal Carribean Cruise Ship in Barbados and 307 land-based returning Filipinos from the UAE. Only two tested positive of Covid-19 and promptly isolated and transferred to the We Heal As One Center – ASEAN Convention Center.
The rest bused by Genesis transport to their destinations.
Delivered, as promised. Swift and smooth. Enthused National Action Plan Against COVID-19 deputy chief implementer Vince Dizon: “Ito naman ang ipinangako ng gobyerno – na hindi hihigit sa limang araw ang pagaantay ng ating mga OFWs. Nagagalak kaming makita na napakabilis ng pagdaan sa proseso ng mga kababayan natin na lumapag sa Clark.”
As quick is Dizon, also the president-CEO of the Bases and Conversion and Development Authority that lords over Clark, in giving credit to peers: “Hindi ito magiging posible kung hindi sa pagtutulungan ng ating mga partner government agencies at local government units dito sa Pampanga.”
As well as the Luzon International Premier Airport Development Corp., the operator of CRK: “Consistent with LIPAD’s Mission of providing our customers with a seamless travel experience, this is indeed a remarkable occasion as we fulfill the wish of our stranded heroes to at last see their families at the soonest possible time.”
How is it that it took weeks, even months for returned OFWs in Metro Manila to get their Covid-19 test results and be released from quarantine when it takes only at most five days for those in Clark?
The quick turnaround of laboratory test results was possible due to the increase in the number of laboratories and the daily testing capacity outside the National Capital Region, so the BCDA said.
The RT-PCR tests of repatriated Filipinos arriving in Clark are processed at the JB Lingad Memorial Regional Hospital in the City of San Fernando, which has the capacity to conduct over 3,000 tests per day. And upon the release of negative results, health certificates are issued by the Bureau of Quarantine, furthered the BCDA.
But aren’t there as many, ay, even more, testing laboratories in Metro Manila?
It clearly ain’t the number, it’s the people committed to the task. And there is both constancy and consistency in the results in Clark.
Last June 9, the IATF made quite a show of the send-off for the repatriated OFWs that arrived in CRK June 6. Three days in quarantine was all it took for them to get their RT-PCR results – all negative – before taken home by buses, with sacks of rice and other food packs from Gov. Dennis “Delta” Pineda to boot.
“Actually, ang target talaga namin is within five days ang test results. We are so happy na nagawa namin in three days dito sa Clark,” NAP-Covid-19 chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. said. Again, the facility of the OFWs testing was attributed to the JBL laboratory.
It was not only Filipino repatriates that were served well at Clark.
The last 10 Mindanao residents stranded in Clark due to the travel restrictions of ECQ finally had their flight for home June 7.
“Masaya kaming lahat na nakauwi na sila. Napakahirap ng pinagdaanan ng ating mga OFWs kaya kung natulungan namin sila ng kahit kaunti para mabawasan ang hirap na yan ay malaking bagay na yun. Masaya kami na makakasama na sila ng kanilang mga mahal sa buhay,” reported Dizon.
Amor con amor se paga, so it is cliched. So here it obtains.
“Sa lahat po ng staff ng BCDA naging close po kami sa kanila, sila po ang nagbantay sa amin dito. Sa time na naghirap kami, sila yung nasasandalan namin,” articulated Orlando Ladia Jr. the feeling of the LSIs on their way home.
And as an expression of their gratitude, Ladia performed “That’s What Friends are For” with his violin, dedicated it to the Task Force Clark Safe Haven which comprised volunteers from the BCDA, the Clark Development Corp., and the Clark International Airport Corp.
There is a general feeling of well-being among the OFWs and LSIs that flew in at CRK, and stayed for quarantine at Clark.
Dizon’s “kung natulungan naming sila ng kaunti, ay malaking bagay na sa amin” is an understatement that comes beyond compare vis-à-vis the OFWs and ISLs’ Metro Manila experience.
For one, those in Clark were housed at Quest Hotel, Park Inn by Radisson, and The Mansion. Nowhere near those seedy motels or under-flyover lodgings in the metro.
For another, there’s LIPAD at CRK.
The issue of repatriated OFWs and distressed Filipinos essentially handled by the same people at IATF, the equation remains: They do well in Clark. Why not at NAIA and Metro Manila?