MANILA— More than 100 Filipinos, who volunteered to be repatriated from Puerto Rico hours before another devastating storm slams into the American territory, are due to arrive in the Philippines Wednesday night.
“We made a promise to bring our people home and they will be soon,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano, noting the repatriation is the first the Philippines undertook as a result of a natural disaster and the first to be carried out in the Americas.
Cayetano is attending the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said Philippine Airlines flight No. 8115 left Puerto Rico at 10:50 a.m. carrying 132 Filipinos, who were earlier rescued by the Philippine Embassy in Washington, DC from the British Virgin Islands, Anguilla, and Sint Maarten that were devastated when Hurricane Irma ripped across the Caribbean last week.
Embassy Chargé d’Affaires Patrick Chuasoto said a four-member team from the Embassy that was dispatched to carry out the rescue and repatriation would also be on board the flight.
“It was really a race against time as we had to make sure the plane takes off before Hurricane Maria slams into Puerto Rico,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Embassy reiterated its advisory for the more than 1,000 Filipinos in Puerto Rico and other islands in the Caribbean to brace for Hurricane Maria.
“We strongly reiterate our advice to the Filipino communities along the path of Hurricane Maria to prepare as best as they can, follow the directives of local authorities, and track the storm’s progress,” said Chargé d’ Affaires Chuasoto.
The hurricane was scheduled to hit Puerto Rico at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Philippine time.
There are about 219 Filipinos based in Puerto Rico.
It was expected to also affect Anguilla, the British Virgin Islands, the Dominican Republic, and the United States Virgin Islands that were still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Irma.
For his part, DFA Spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar said they expect to repatriate more Filipinos from hurricane-hit countries.
“Unfortunately, because of Hurricane Maria, we might have to see if other Kababayans (compatriots) would want to be repatriated after the Maria,” he told reporters.