International Relations. Papua New Guinea press review
38 citizens of Papua New Guinea stranded in Manila, the Philippines, returned on a late chartered flight Air Niugini Exxon Mobil to Port Moresby. The chartered flight had repatriated 29 of its Filipino workers and other residents back to the Philippines and on its return leg, uplifted 38 of the PNG nationals who had been stranded there since the lockdown.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade acting deputy secretary operations, John Yamin, whilst expressing his gratitude to the corporate sponsor, said the Department was anticipating the return of a much larger group but due to the lockdown in the Philippines, a good number of citizens out in the provinces were unable to make it into Manila in time. Another 54 Papua New Guineans are expected to return from the Philippines.
«They are basically students who have finished their studies or have had their lessons abruptly stopped because of the situation in the Philippines and elsewhere in the world. There are some missionaries also on this flight as well as some Papua New Guinea-Philippines residents as well as some of our citizens who went to the Philippines to seek medical attention».
The Foreign Affairs and International Trade Department is now able to meet the quarantine costs for PNG nationals who are returning from abroad. According to J. Yamin, this is possible through K15 million funding allocated by the government. The average Papua New Guinean cannot afford to live in a hotel for two weeks. And this was the concern raised by Papua New Guineans who wanted to return from abroad. «Now with this funding, we’ll be able to carry out the charter flights, do accommodation for quarantine here as well as look after our missions abroad; how they can be able to go about doing their business in managing our citizens that are still stranded abroad» To date, 840 citizens are yet to be repatriated.
The plight of 126 Papua New Guinea citizens, 96 of whom are prisoners stranded in Indonesia, remains uncertain as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise in neighbouring Papua Province (Indonesia). This was one of the main issues at the meeting between the provincial authorities of East Sepik and West Sepik. Suggestions at the meeting include extension of the State of Emergency in the border provinces and for the stranded PNG citizens to be tested, processed and cleared before being allowed to return.
Deputy team leader of the West Sepik inter-government COVID-19 team, Dr. Stella Jimmy, recommended for the state-of-emergency (SoE) to continue in the two border provinces.
«The stranded PNG citizens in Indonesia are waiting for direction from NOC (National Operations Centre) because the border at this time is closed». he said. Once they come through they will be processed through 14 days quarantine and tested before they are released to their respective provinces.
The leaders, fearing for an increase in the outbreak, have called on Prime Minister of Papua New Guinea Hon. James Marape and SoE Controller David Manning to liaise with the Indonesian President and Governor of Papua Province for Indonesia to conduct testing and issue medical clearance certificates for our PNG citizens to be allowed back into PNG.