LOOK: PH Navy ships in India to pick up face masks, repatriate Filipino tourists
MANILA, Philippines – Two Philippine Navy vessels docked in Cochin, India on Wednesday, May 6, to bring home some 200,000 face masks and fetch a group of Filipino tourists who were stranded because of travel bans due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The landing dock ship BRP Davao del Sur and the patrol ship BRP Ramon Alcaraz arrived in India from Oman on April 29, the Philippine Navy said in a media release. The vessels remained in anchorage while waiting for their cargo to be ready. India’s southern naval commander Commodore Sanjay Nagar led a welcome ceremony for the Philippine ships.
On Wednesday, a total of 59 boxes of face masks were loaded onto the vessels. The Filipino sailors adhered strictly to stringent safety measures and wore personal protective equipment as they handled the boxes, which they then disinfected, the Navy said.
This cargo of 200,000 face masks is the first batch of an expected total of one million pieces donated by Filipino businessman Paul Dantes of LegalZoc, coursed through the Office of Civil Defense.
Meanwhile, around 20 Filipino tourists stranded in India boarded the BRP Davao del Sur in Cochin. All bore medical certificates clearing them of COVID-19, but they will be isolated within the vessel and will be supervised by a medical team throughout the voyage home, the Navy said.
The two vessels are expected to arrive in the Philippines within May.
The ships left the Philippines for Oman in January, when a US attack on an Iranian military general in Iraq threatened to escalate violence in the Middle East. The government sent the ships to help repatriate Filipinos in the region, but the mission did not push through because political tensions had eased.
The Navy and the rest of the Philippine military – the Army and the Air Force – have lent their transport assets to efforts to fight the pandemic. Their trucks and smaller vessels have been ferrying frontliners in the absence of public transport, while their ships and planes have been hauling equipment from abroad and around the Philippines.