PH ‘temporarily’ restricts flight operations

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MANILA – The Philippine government has temporarily restricted flights to and from the country to “decongest the country’s quarantine facilities” amid fight against coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.

Presidential Peace Adviser and National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 Chief Implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. made this statement on Sunday.

“The National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 has made the decision to temporarily restrict flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila and all other international airports in the country,” Galvez said in a statement.

Exempted from the flight restriction are emergencies while en route; cargo flights; air ambulance and medical supplies flights; weather mitigation flights; and maintenance flights.

Sweeper flights for foreign nationals repatriating back to their respective countries are also allowed to continue.

All domestic air arrivals and departures at the NAIA will remain suspended.

“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 (OFWs) are well taken care of when they arrive from abroad,” he added.

The NAIA, in a post on its official Facebook account on Saturday (May 2), said all passenger and commercial flights to and from the Philippines will be suspended starting 8 a.m. Sunday (May 3).

“To help further mitigate the spread of the deadly coronavirus in the country, the Philippine government, through Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr., Chief Implementer of the National Taskforce Against Covid-19, has decided to temporarily suspend all commercial/passenger flights to and from the country beginning 8 a.m. of May 3, 2020,” NAIA said.

NAIA said cargo flights, medical supplies, utility, and maintenance flights will remain unhampered.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), in a separate statement, issued a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) suspending inbound international passenger and commercial flights to the Philippines for one week starting Sunday morning.

CAAP’s notice covers nine international airports in the country: NAIA, Davao International Airport, Clark International Airport, Iloilo International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Zamboanga International Airport, Kalibo International Airport, Laoag International Airport, Puerto Princesa International Airport.

Outbound international commercial flights will be allowed after receiving approval from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) and the Department of Foreign Affairs.

International flights wishing to land and depart must request exemption with the CAAP Operation and Rescue Coordination Center at least 36 hours before the scheduled departure from their place of origin.

Galvez also assured that 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.

President Rodrigo Duterte extended the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in high-risk areas in the country including Metro Manila where NAIA is located until May 15.

There are a total of 8,928 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country, 603 deaths, and 1,124 recoveries as of Saturday (May 2) while over 1,700 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have so far been infected with the deadly virus.

Around 20,000 OFWs are undergoing mandatory quarantine in Metro Manila as of Sunday (May 3).

Meanwhile, Philippine Airlines spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the carrier has canceled special flights from the US for Manila that are supposedly scheduled from May 4 to 8 following the new government directive.

Affected passengers may rebook to another special flight operating after the implementation of the new directive, subject to government approval, she said.  (PNA)

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