Tugade: Future of aviation industry 'dicey' despite eased quarantine measures
A passenger sits alone at the NAIA Terminal 1 on May 3, 2020 after a suspension of international flights.
The STAR/Rudy Santos, file

Tugade: Future of aviation industry 'dicey' despite eased quarantine measures

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - June 2, 2020 - 7:28pm

MANILA, Philippines — The aviation industry is facing a "dicey" future because of the coronavirus pandemic but the government is eyeing measures to keep the industry viable, the transportation department said yesterday.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade noted that many airlines around the world have declared bankruptcy as countries grapple with the virus, which has so far infected more than six million people.

"The future of the aviation industry, one word: dicey. Kasi mayroon ho tayong kalaban na talagang masyadong madaming variables. Ni hindi natin nakikita itong punyeterong COVID (coronavirus disease) na ito (We have an enemy with too many variables. We can't even see this COVID pest)... It’s really very dicey," Tugade said at a press briefing.

"But we are mandated locally that we protect and help assure the continued viability and operations of our own local aviation partners," he added.

Tugade said agencies have proposed to Congress an economic stimulus act that would support the aviation industry.
"What is the aviation industry as you look forward in the horizon? Sir, we hope we can help each other as we traverse and we as we conquer COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), the subsistence, the continued subsistence and the operation of our local operators are maintained and guaranteed and assured," the transportation chief said.

Governments have imposed lockdowns and travel bans to contain the coronavirus pandemic, which originated in Wuhan, China.

While the Philippine government has started to relax restrictions, some local governments are still wary of resuming domestic flights over fears about the possible spread of the virus. Airlines have been forced to cancel flights because the government has yet to approve domestic air travel routes.

Tugade said the departure and acceptance of passengers traveling by air require the approval of local governments.

He said Carlito Galvez, Jr., chief implementer of the national policy on the coronavirus pandemic, has informed the Civil Aeronautics Board that commercial aviation within areas under general community quarantine would be allowed if it will not be exclusively for leisure and if there is "conformity" with the local government.

"In other words, the moving predicate for this approval is the conformity of the local government in allowing departure and acceptance of the traveling public by air," Tugade said.

"This is important...What can we do if we allow airplanes to fly but local governments refuse to accept them?" he added.

Ban on foreign visitors stays

At the same press briefing, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said foreign visitors are still prohibited from entering the country despite the easing of quarantine restrictions. He noted that the government is already preoccupied with the expected arrival of thousands of repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

"The IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force on the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) has not made a decision on whether to accept foreigners," Roque said.

"With OFWs alone, the government is already busy because all who will come home will undergo PCT (polymerase chain reaction) tests. So we would have a bigger problem if foreigners are allowed to come," he added. 

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