38 Filipino students stranded in China send SOS to be repatriated

Thirty-eight Filipino students are stranded in different cities in China after their study programs ended amid the coronavirus pandemic. The students were no longer receiving stipends since their programs ended.

Aimee Caye Chang, one of the marooned students, took to Facebook on Friday, July 10.  She called for help, asking for the immediate repatriation of the students. She said: "...it would really help us if we can finally go back to the Philippines as soon as possible."

Chang said some of the students were already being asked to move out of their respective dormitories. They also couldn’t find work in China to support themselves because of the restrictions of their student visas.

In a message to Rappler, Chang said her study program ended in May but there were students who have been waiting since February. She said most of them ended their study programs from April to June. Their student visas were expiring between June to August.

“Some of us really want to book flights but unfortunately, they were just too expensive for us (P80,000 to P100,000). And some students, like myself, who were able to book flights were still unable to fly since flights were just getting canceled every time,” Chang said in the Facebook post.

Airlines in the Philippines suspended international flights as early as March when the lockdown was imposed to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.

“If there's no need to contact the government naman, we can just go home on our own. Ang problem 'yung mga bookings namin lahat nakacancel lang and we can’t book more kasi naipit na yung money namin sa PAL for refunds,” Chang told Rappler.

(The problem is all our bookings were canceled and we can’t book more because we’re still waiting for refunds from the airlines.)

Chang added that the Philippine consulate in Guangzhou reached out to them to ask how they were and when their visas would expire. But they were told to wait if there would be a repatriation program for them.

“We're just waiting every day for news and updates kung mapapauwi ba kami (for repatriation),” Chang said.

She also said that they have contacted Philippine officials to ask for help, and they have so far gotten one endorsement to the Department of Foreign Affairs from Senator Joel Villanueva.

“So right now we're just worrying how long will we wait. And kung meron nga bang repat para sa amin (and if there is going to be a repatriation program for us),” Chang told Rappler. “Kasi (Because) we can't survive until the end of the year with no income.” – Rappler.com

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is part of the Rappler Research Team’s fact-checking unit. Aside from debunking dubious claims, she also enjoys crunching data and writing stories about the economy, environment, and media democracy.

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