FREE PAL FLIGHTS HOME FOR MIDEAST OFWS

Manila, March 22, 2003  -- Lucio Tan, Philippine Airlines chairman
yesterday said the flag carrier is prepared to ferry overseas Filipino
Workers (OFWs) from the Middle East for free.

Tan said there has been no official request from the government to assist
in the repatriation of OFWs but PAL is ready in case it is asked to help.

He said there would be no limit to the number of OFWs that PAL would ferry.

PAL is maintaining its three weekly flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in
spite of the suspension of the deployment of workers to the Middle East.

Tan observed that no OFW in the Middle East seemed to be interested in
returning home.

President Arroyo thanked Tan for helping set up call centers that provide
free phone calls between OFWs in the Gulf area and their families here.

The call centers are a joint project of the Overseas Worker Welfare
Administration, Philippine Long Distance Telecommunications, Smart
Communications, Globe Telecom and Philippine National Bank.

Tan is a major shareholder of PNB.

"I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you and the PNB because of your
support and your being the patron of the call centers of the OWWA so that
Filipinos can be in touch with their loved ones in the Middle East," the
President told Tan.

The President inspected the call center at the Presidential Action Center
(PACE) near Malacaņang which opened yesterday.

Arroyo, who talked to a worker in Riyadh, expressed satisfaction with the
communication facilities.

A housewife, whose husband is reportedly among the 23 OFWs jailed in the
United Arab Emirates (UAE), asked Arroyo to help her husband.

Arroyo called Foreign Secretary Blas Ople to attend to the matter.

Other call centers are located at the Harrison Plaza Shopping Center, Ninoy
Aquino Stadium Center at the Rizal Memorial Complex, and in OWWA offices in
Pasay City and Baguio City.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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