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High air ticket prices disrupt travel plans, vacations of Filipino helpers

By Ben Garcia KUWAIT: Filipino domestic helpers are delaying their vacations to return to their families due to a steep rise in airfare to the Philippines. The cheapest tickets to Manila these days are around KD 670, reaching up to KD 3,435. Many domestic helpers are complaining their annual vacations are already long overdue, but…

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High air ticket prices disrupt travel plans, vacations of Filipino helpers

By Ben Garcia
KUWAIT: Filipino domestic helpers are delaying their vacations to return to their families due to a steep rise in airfare to the Philippines. The cheapest tickets to Manila these days are around KD 670, reaching up to KD 3,435. Many domestic helpers are complaining their annual vacations are already long overdue, but their employers do not want to buy the pricey tickets.
Travel agencies told Kuwait Times that prices of airline tickets to Manila from Kuwait will only fall to pre-pandemic levels once the Philippine government allows airline companies to add more capacity or removes the travel quota. Currently, the Philippines allows only 2,500 passengers daily, up from 1,500 in April and 2,000 passengers in May.
Speaking to Kuwait Times, Dadabhai Travel Agency Brand Manager Paulita Lundang said the spike in airfares to Manila is due to the quota implemented by the Philippine government, adding thousands of Kuwaiti employers are complaining about the incredible amounts they have to spend to send their domestic helpers to the Philippines.
“We cannot do anything about the price of airline tickets. I think the airlines also want to reduce their fares, but they cannot do so easily, as they also have to pay their pilots and crews,” Lundang said. “Prices will go down soon, especially when the Philippines removes restrictions from airlines. Before we could only carry up to 35 passengers, which later increased to 50, to 90 passengers now. If these restrictions are removed, airlines will cut prices,” she said.
According to Lundang, for some countries that did not restrict their airports, airfares are almost back to normal. “Look at India and Bangladesh – airfares are still high compared to pre-pandemic levels, but they are somehow reasonable,” she said. Lundang said the Philippine government is assisting its citizens by sending chartered flights to Kuwait to get distressed workers out free of charge, but the quarterly chartered flights are not enough.
“Besides chartered flights, the Philippine government also arranges special monthly flights to Manila. Filipinos are given a 50 percent discount on these special flights, so the regular ticket price of KD 670 is reduced to KD 295 only. The special flights are arranged by the Philippine Labor Office, while the chartered flights are arranged by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs,” she explained.
Not allowedSome Filipino domestic helpers are not being allowed by their sponsors to go on vacation to the Philippines due to the sky-high ticket prices. “I was planning to go on vacation, but my sponsor said I have to wait for some time because tickets are insanely expensive,” said Mary Grace Montacir, a domestic helper from Iloilo.
“I was supposed to take leave to be with my family last year, but it was delayed due to COVID-19. My boss told me to go this February, but cases of the Delta variant increased from that month, so my plan was put on hold again. They then said I could maybe go home by November, but when I asked them again, they said it’s not the best time because tickets are too expensive, so my leave was put on hold again,” she said.
Her problem is similar to Gina Morales’, who hails from Surala South Cotabato. She was supposed to go on vacation two years back. “I normally go back every two years as promised by my boss. In 2019, when I was supposed to go home, I decided to travel in March 2020, but the pandemic began and I was not able to leave. My family was understanding, but now it’s 2021 and soon 2022.
How can I go home when airfares are too high? My employers said prices of tickets are very high, and told me to wait,” she said. Besides exorbitant airfares, all arriving overseas Filipino workers are subjected to 14 days of hotel quarantine arranged free of charge by the Philippine government (eight days only for vaccinated passengers).

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Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

ALGIERS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian held talks in Algeria Wednesday in a bid to heal the latest rift between the North African country and its former colonial ruler.Le Drian’s trip, kept secret until the last minute, is a “working visit, to evaluate and relaunch the relationship” and he is set to meet President…

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Morocco state schools face ‘crisis’

ALGIERS: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian held talks in Algeria Wednesday in a bid to heal the latest rift between the North African country and its former colonial ruler.Le Drian’s trip, kept secret until the last minute, is a “working visit, to evaluate and relaunch the relationship” and he is set to meet President Abdelmadjid Tebboune, a French foreign ministry source told AFP on condition of anonymity.Algeria’s APS state news outlet confirmed that the French diplomat had met his Algerian counterpart Ramtane Lamamra during “a working visit and evaluation of bilateral relations.”Relations between Algiers and Paris have been strained for much of the six decades since the former French colony won its independence after a 130-year occupation.President Emmanuel Macron has gone further than his predecessors in owning up to French abuses during the colonial era.But ties collapsed in October after Macron accused Algeria’s “political-military system” of rewriting history and fomenting “hatred toward France.”In remarks to descendants of independence fighters, reported by Le Monde, Macron also questioned whether Algeria had existed as a nation before the French invasion in the 1800s.Coming a month after Paris decided to sharply reduce visa quotas for citizens of Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia, those comments sparked a fierce reaction from Algeria.The country withdrew its ambassador and banned French military planes from its airspace, which they regularly use to carry out operations against jihadist groups in West Africa and the Sahel region.The comments also prompted Tebboune to boycott a major November summit in Paris on Algeria’s war-torn neighbor Libya, vowing that Algeria would “not take the first step” to repair ties.The dispute prompted a rare expression of contrition from the French presidency, which said it “regretted” the misunderstandings caused by the remarks.An aide from Macron’s office said the French leader “has the greatest respect for the Algerian nation and its history and for Algeria’s sovereignty.”Algerian Foreign Minister Lamamra welcomed that statement and, in the end, represented Algeria at the Libya conference.Le Drian’s visit comes as Algeria prepares to celebrate the 60th anniversary of its independence in March.Macron, France’s first leader born after the colonial era, has made a priority of historical reconciliation and forging a modern relationship with former colonies.Earlier this year, he recognized that French officers tortured and killed Algerian lawyer Ali Boumendjel in 1957.Macron also in October condemned “inexcusable crimes” during a 1961 crackdown against Algerian pro-independence protesters in Paris, during which French police led by a former Nazi collaborator killed dozens of demonstrators and threw their bodies into the river Seine.A report commissioned by the president from historian Benjamin Stora earlier this year urged a truth commission over the Algerian war but Macron ruled out issuing any official apology.And as he seeks re-election next year, he is wary of providing ammunition to far-right nationalist opponents Marine Le Pen and Eric Zemmour.

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Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian teenager who drove his car into an Israeli security checkpoint in the occupied West Bank was shot dead on Monday by a security guard at the scene, officials said. The car-ramming occurred after 1 a.m. at the Te’enim checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, an Israeli Defense Ministry statement said, adding that…

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Motorcycle explosion in southern Iraqi city kills at least 4

RAMALLAH: A Palestinian teenager who drove his car into an Israeli security checkpoint in the occupied West Bank was shot dead on Monday by a security guard at the scene, officials said.

The car-ramming occurred after 1 a.m. at the Te’enim checkpoint near the Palestinian city of Tulkarem, an Israeli Defense Ministry statement said, adding that the assailant had been “neutralized.”

It was not immediately clear if the alleged attacker was killed, but the official Palestinian news agency Wafa later reported that 15-year-old Mohammed Nidal Yunes died from injuries after being fired on at a checkpoint.

An Israeli security official confirmed to AFP that the driver of the vehicle was killed.

The Defense Ministry said that a security guard was “seriously injured” in the attack.

Israel’s Sheba Hospital said the guard’s injuries were not life threatening.

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

Attacks on checkpoints are common, often carried out by individual Palestinians armed with knives, as well as attempted car-rammings and occasional shootings.

Monday’s incident came after a Palestinian assailant stabbed an Israeli civilian and attempted to attack police on Saturday near the Damascus Gate entry to the Old City in Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem.

The assailant was shot dead by officers who appeared to fire on the suspect after he was on the ground, stirring debate about excessive force.

Israeli authorities have insisted the officers acted appropriately.

BACKGROUND

Israel has occupied the West Bank since 1967 and the Palestinian territory is now home to roughly 475,000 Jewish settlers living in communities widely considered illegal under international law.

On Sunday, Israeli authorities freed a prominent Palestinian prisoner, two weeks after striking a release deal that ended his marathon 131-day hunger strike.

Kayed Fasfous, 32, had remained in an Israeli hospital since ending his strike on Nov. 23.

He was the symbolic figurehead of six hunger strikers protesting Israel’s controversial policy of “administrative detention,” which allows suspects to be held indefinitely without charge.

Israel claims the policy is necessary to keep dangerous suspects locked away without disclosing sensitive information that could expose valuable sources.

Palestinians and rights groups say the practice denies the right of due process, allowing Israel to hold prisoners for months or even years without seeing the evidence against them.  The law is rarely applied to Israelis.

The Palestinian Prisoners Club, a group representing former and current prisoners, confirmed Fasfous had returned home to the occupied West Bank through a military checkpoint near the southern city of Hebron on Sunday afternoon.

Online footage showed the former prisoner in a wheelchair celebrating his return to his southern hometown of Dura before being taken to a hospital in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The plight of the six hunger strikers ignited solidarity demonstrations across the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza in November mounting pressure on Israel to release the detainees.

At least four of the five other hunger strikers have since ended their protests after reaching similar deals with Israeli authorities. They are expected to be released in the coming months.

Hunger strikes are common among Palestinian prisoners and have helped secure numerous concessions from Israeli authorities.

The nature of these strikes vary from individuals protesting detention without charge to groups calling for improved cell conditions.

Around 500 of the 4,600 Palestinians detained by Israel are held in administrative detention according to Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner rights group.

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Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said. Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh…

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Israel urges hard line against Iran at nuclear talks

SULAIMANIYA: An attack by Daesh militants on a village in northern Iraq on Friday killed three villagers and 10 Kurdish soldiers, officials in Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region said.

Daesh claimed responsibility for the deadly attack in a statement posted on an affiliated Telegram account.The attack took place in the Makhmour region, a hotbed for Daesh activity that sees regular attacks against Kurdish forces, Iraqi forces and often civilians.Makhmour is a mountainous area about 70 km southeast of Mosul and 60 km southwest of the Kurdish capital of Irbil.Kurdistan’s Prime Minister Masrour Barzani called for greater security cooperation between Iraqi Kurdish and Iraqi security forces to stop Daesh’s insurgent activities.Iraqi officials and analysts have long blamed a lack of coordination along a stretch of territory claimed by both Baghdad and Irbil for Daesh’s continued ability to wage deadly attacks.Daesh controlled roughly a third of Iraq between 2014 and 2017, including the remote Makhmour region but also major cities including Mosul.A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.Western military officials say at least 10,000 Daesh fighters remain in Iraq and Syria.A statement from the Kurdistan region’s armed forces, the peshmerga, said Daesh militants attacked the village in the early hours of Friday killing three residents.It said peshmerga forces intervened, resulting in clashes that killed at least seven of their soldiers.Kurdish security and hospital officials said the final death toll was at least 10 peshmerga soldiers and three villagers.In a separate development, Kurdish demonstrators in The Hague stormed the headquarters of the global chemical weapons body on Friday, sparking clashes in which six people were hurt and 50 arrested, Dutch police said.

FASTFACT

A loose coalition of US-led forces, Iraqi and Kurdish troops and Iran-backed Shiite militias defeated the Daesh extremist group in 2017, but its members still roam areas of northern Iraq and northeastern Syria.

Dozens of protesters alleging that Turkey is using toxic arms in northern Iraq broke through security to enter the grounds of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague.A number of them managed to get inside the lobby of the building before police removed them, diplomatic sources said, while the rest staged a noisy protest outside the front doors.Police dragged the demonstrators off one by one, put them on the ground and handcuffed them, journalists saw. Some were bundled into waiting vans, but the large number meant many were taken away in a hired bus.At least a dozen police vehicles sealed off the road outside the OPCW, which is opposite Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s official residence. Several ambulances and a medical helicopter were also at the scene.Two police officers and four protesters were wounded when the demonstrators “stormed the building,” The Hague police said.Turkish jets regularly attack the separatists’ bases in northern Iraq and autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan, with several villages having emptied of their inhabitants since a new Turkish army offensive in April.The PKK and Kurdish organizations in Europe have in recent months accused Turkey of using chemical weapons, including a nerve agent and sulfur mustard gas, in dozens of attacks in northern Iraq.“We have called on OPCW and all international bodies to come and independently investigate the use of chemical weapons,” Zagros Hiwa, a spokesperson for the Kurdistan Democratic Communities Union, the PKK’s political branch, told AFP.

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