The Department of Tourism in Region 4B (DOT-4B) has assisted 6,371 tourists stranded, mostly in Palawan.

State-run Philippine News Agency (PNA) reported Tuesday that the DOT southwestern Tagalog regional office, whose areas of responsibility is over Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, and Palawan (MIMAROPA), recently set up a command center in coordination with the local government units (LGUs) to facilitate the transfer of stranded foreign tourists through an estimated 87 recovery flights.

The operations were carried out by various airlines and chartered private planes in coordination with the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and immigration authorities.

They were conducted from March 15-28 in partnership with Air Swift, Philippine Airlines, Air Asia, Cebu Pacific; and private chartered planes AV Aviation, Don Air, and Leading Edge Fokker.

Transit points included the airports of Puerto Princesa, El Nido, Busuanga and San Vicente where the DOT-4B team set up on-site registration and assisted the tourists with departure procedures, such as checking of passport and visa validity, confirmation with concerned embassies, and clearance from the local health offices, said the PNA quoting a DOT press release.

The DOT-4B, led by director Christopher Morales, also extended various forms of assistance to 32 domestic tourists.

Meanwhile, the provincial government of Palawan arranged the land transportation of some 275 stranded tourists from San Vicente and El Nido, Palawan going to the Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPIA) for recovery flights where free lunch was served.

At least 266 were assisted in their sea voyage while accommodations were arranged with establishments in Palawan for the extended stay of remaining tourists.

In El Nido, El Nido Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ENCCI) director Bellita Florendo said 161 tourists remain in around 130 accommodations.

She said the figure is based on the online tracking of the ENCCI and the Cottages, Resorts and Restaurants in El Nido (CRRAEN) in cooperation with Task Force Salangga and the municipal government of El Nido.

Salangga was organized in the town exclusively to assist the tourism office to monitor the condition of stranded tourists.

“We cannot expose ourselves kaya we are doing and trying our best to help online lang muna,” she said.

She said the tracking of the tourists still stuck in El Nido is so the business sector can assist.

“There are guests who stayed in an unregistered apartment here and already ran out of budget, who will help them? That’s why we’re here to help, these guests might recommend tourists from their countries in the future,” Florendo added.

As of April 1, 30 foreign tourists were able to fly out of El Nido via a private Dutch chartered flight. (with reports from Bella Mutia and Patricia Laririt)