|Image from My Boracay Guide|
THE CIVIL Aeronautics Board (CAB) on Saturday stopped Philippine carriers from selling tickets for flights, which were supposed to commence on Monday, June 1, as the National Capital Region shifts to general community quarantine (GCQ) status.
This developed as reports reached the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) about complaints from local government units (LGUs) saying they were not ready for commercial flights. Pioneering flag carrier Philippine Airlines had announced late Friday it would commence domestic and international flights on June 1.
An advisory signed on May 30, 2020 by CAB Executive Director Carmelo L. Arcilla, a copy of which was obtained by BusinessMirror, said, “Please be informed that the IATF has yet to approve the routes for domestic operations in the first week of June 2020. Consequently, airlines are hereby advised to cancel their flights on June 1, 2020 and to stop selling tickets for the said date.”
The advisory was released at around 7 p.m., and sent to the CEOs and other executives of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, Air Juan Aviation Inc., Air Philippines Corp., Airswift Transport Inc., Cebu Pacific, Cebgo, Isla Aviation Inc., PAL, Philippines Air Asia, and SkyJet Airlines.
Following the CAB advisory, PAL revised its plans, and announced on Saturday evening that its domestic flights would resume on June 8. Aviation sources intimated CAB had actually approved the flights for June 1, but failed to inform the IATF. CAB officials did not respond to text messages from this paper.
Meanwhile, Undersecretary for Tourism Regulation, Coordination, and Resource Generation Arturo P. Boncato Jr. said several provinces in the south requested for a postponement of commercial flights to prepare their airports and resorts for hosting of tourists. Among these are Siargao and Boracay.
“The provincial government of Surigao del Norte would like to prepare for the reopening of Siargao especially dealing with incoming flights and reopening of resorts, etc. They are working on their protocols,” he said. The province has requested the IATF for a “suspension of regular airport operations up to August 31,” and discourages the entry of tourists, as per the LGU’s Executive Order 20-018 issued on May 30.
Boncato added, “The province of Aklan and LGU of Malay are also doing simulations and dry runs for reopening and have yOn et to announce a reopening date.” Malay hosts Boracay Island, dubbed one of the best beaches in the world. The island is building a Covid-19 laboratory, in anticipation of the tourist influx, said the DOT official.
Other provinces which have also declined to reopen for tourism were Bohol and Baguio. These provinces have been placed under MECQ and as per IATF regulations, are allowed to resume tourism activities.
On Saturday, the CAB also reminded airlines that they are not allowed to accept passengers going for leisure activities in areas under GCQ.
In an advisory signed on May 29, 2020 by Arcilla, the agency said, “Under the Omnibus Guidelines on Community Quarantine, movement in areas under GCQ for leisure purposes shall not be allowed.”
It also prohibited the travel of “persons below 21 years old,” as well as senior citizens, along with which have “immunodeficiency, comorbidities, or other health risks, and pregnant [women].… For purposes of compliance, airlines shall vet or screen departing passengers to confirm that the travel is for non-leisure purposes.”
The advisory, released Saturday morning, also reminded carriers on health and safety protocols to be followed in airports and onboard their aircraft, to protect crew and passengers from the novel coronavirus.
On Friday, the DOT clarified on Friday that under GCQ, tourism and leisure-related activities were still prohibited. (See, “No hotel operations, leisure travel allowed under GCQ,” in the BusinessMirror, May 30, 2020.)
*This was my original story submitted to the desk, before it got wrapped with another reporter's copy.