Philippines suspends inbound commercial flights for one week
The Philippine government has suspended for one week all inbound international commercial flights to prevent further spread of coronavirus disease in the country.
The temporary suspension of usage of all international airports for inbound passenger flights became effective at 8am on Sunday until May 9, the Department of Transportation said.
This was in compliance with the decision of the National Task Force Against COVID-19.
In a statement, NTF Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., however, said exempted from the ban were emergencies while enroute, cargo flights, air ambulance and medical supplies flights, weather mitigation flights, and maintenance flights.
“Also allowed to continue are sweeper flights for foreign nationals repatriating back to their respective countries. All domestic air arrivals and departures at the NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) will remain suspended,” Galvez said.
“This decision is meant to decongest our quarantine facilities to protect our people by preventing the further spread of COVID-19 and also ensure that our overseas Filipino workers are well taken care of when they arrive from abroad,” he said.
As of Sunday, there were approximately 20,000 OFWs undergoing mandatory quarantine in Metro Manila.
“The new flight restriction is only temporary and will be implemented for one week to give the government the opportunity to decongest the quarantine facilities in Metro Manila,” Galvez said.
The DOTr said the move is deemed necessary in order to ensure that the country would not experience a second wave of coronavirus pandemic due to the increasing number of international passenger arrivals.
It should be noted that most of the repatriated Filipinos are coming from countries which experienced significant COVID-19 outbreak, it said.
The DOTr also said this would allow the government's frontline agencies that are tasked to contain the spread of COVID-19 to upgrade their testing and screening protocols and expand the existing quarantine and treatment facilities and ensure a more comfortable quarantine arrangement for the repatriated OFWs.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said the international flights wishing to land and depart must request exemption with the CAAP Operations Center at least 36 hours before the scheduled departure from their place of origin.
On the Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) released by CAAP, the suspension covers NAIA, Davao International Airport, Clark International Airport, Iloilo International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Zamboanga International Airport, Kalibo International Airport, Laoag International Airport and Puerto Princesa International Airport.
With the directive from the NTF, the Department of Foreign Affairs said that repatriation efforts of the OFWs are being adjusted.
"OFWs will remain where they are in the meantime - many ship crew members are assisted by their manning agencies, some others register with the embassy then proceed to pick-up points or the airport when a flight is scheduled. For those who may already be at airports, they will be assisted as best possible under the circumstances," it said. Ella Dionisio/DMS