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Australians stuck in Philippines due to coronavirus lockdown forced to buy boat and fish to survive

Australian couple stuck in locked down Philippines for five months are forced to buy a boat as they have to FISH to survive after running out of money

  • Warrick Alston and wife Aime have been trapped in the Philippines for months
  • The two were planning to return home on March 18 but their flight was cancelled 
  • Instead they bought a boat so they could catch fish as a means to survive
  • Mr Alston is urging the government to show compassion for stranded Aussies

An Australian couple have been forced to buy a boat and fish for food to survive after the coronavirus pandemic left them stranded on a far flung island.

Warrick Alston, 49 and his wife Aime are stuck in Iloilo on Panay Island in the Philippines after their flight home on March 18 was cancelled due to COVID-19.

The pair had travelled over in February to help out the disadvantaged including volunteering with an orphanage.

But the trip turned into a nightmare when the country’s president Rodrigo Duterte ordered police to shoot troublemakers who breached health orders.

Warrick Alston, 49 and his wife Aime Alston are stuck in Iloilo on Panay Island in the Philippines after their flight home on March 18 was cancelled due to COVID-19

The couple were forced to buy a boat (pictured) and fish for food as a means to survive

The couple were forced to buy a boat (pictured) and fish for food as a means to survive

The two have been trapped in the Philippines for five months as a result of strict border closures due to COVID-19 (Pictured: a message in the sand written by the pair)

The two have been trapped in the Philippines for five months as a result of strict border closures due to COVID-19 (Pictured: a message in the sand written by the pair) 

Mr Alston told Daily Mail Australia it wasn’t simply a matter of booking another flight home.

Warrick Alston is living off freshly caught seafood including fish and crabs

Warrick Alston is living off freshly caught seafood including fish and crabs

‘The Australian public and government believe we had time. But when you have 7,000 islands to get out of and a president that has given orders to shoot, you don’t take the risk,’ Mr Alston said.

‘I don’t think travel insurance covers you getting shot by police in a COVID-19 pandemic.’

The couple are still there five months later as they struggle to live off their savings and face difficulties accessing funds through Paypal and Australian bank accounts. 

Mr Alston also had his Centrelink payments cut off while he was over there and can’t re-apply from overseas. 

With no more repatriation flights and an end to government subsidised hotel quarantine, the two simply can’t afford to return home to Australia.

Mr Alston spent $1200 on a fishing boat

 Mr Alston spent $1200 on a fishing boat

Mr Alston estimates it could cost him around $16,000 in total for repatriation. This is money him and his partner don’t have. 

Even if the couple could afford it domestic travel is not operating within the Philippines. 

Their island home is also 600km south of the capital of Manila, so the logistics are nearly ‘impossible’, he says.

Instead, the couple are trying to make the most of their circumstances, ‘learning to adapt’ to life with the local community.

‘I bought a boat for $1200. And we catch fish with a net. Then we dry them out and sell or swap for a chicken or goat. And if we have lots we give to others,’ Mr Alston said. 

They are surviving off a bounty of fish which they also sell off to locals in exchange for other food like chickens or goats

They are surviving off a bounty of fish which they also sell off to locals in exchange for other food like chickens or goats 

The fish are caught, dried and then sold

The fish are caught, dried and then sold 

Aime sits with a number of locals as they prepare fish for trading

Aime sits with a number of locals as they prepare fish for trading

The two are trying to make the most of a tough situation

The two are trying to make the most of a tough situation

A dish prepared by Aime prepared using local ingredients

A dish prepared by Aime prepared using local ingredients

While he is adapting to a ‘new normal’ he is critical of the lack of support for residents who remain stranded overseas without government support.

He believes the government should extend COVID-19 support payments to Australians who are stranded outside the country.  

‘Older Australian citizens cannot get help or medical help and can’t afford to pay Quarantine or the planes back,’ he said. 

‘The Australian Navy is in Philippines at the moment. All they have to do is pick 4 ports pick everyone up in 3 days [then put] everyone on Christmas island for quarantine.

‘We need help. If they can’t get us – give us emergency payments.’ 

Despite storm season on the horizon, Mr Alston is trying to stay upbeat about his circumstances.

‘You still have to live and remain positive and don’t let life get you down,’ he said.

 Daily Mail Australia has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment. 

People arrested for not wearing face masks are detained at a stadium on July 8, 2020 in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines

People arrested for not wearing face masks are detained at a stadium on July 8, 2020 in Quezon city, Metro Manila, Philippines

The Philippines has been in strict lockdown since March to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Pictured: passengers on a bus wear face masks in Manila)

The Philippines has been in strict lockdown since March to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (Pictured: passengers on a bus wear face masks in Manila)

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