Philippines limits passenger arrivals from abroad to NAIA

Philippines limits passenger arrivals from abroad to NAIA
Airline ground staff (L) wearing protective gear work at the counter at the airport in Manila on August 4, 2020.
AFP / Ted Aljibe

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines will cap the number of passengers from international flights who can disembark in Manila’s main gateway starting Thursday for a month.

In an advisory on Tuesday, aviation regulators announced a limit of 1,500 a day for passengers coming from abroad to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City. The limit does not discriminate based on nationality, and will apply both for Filipinos and foreigners.

The cap will be in effect from March 18 to April 18. “Airlines operating in NAIA that will exceed the allowed capacity will be meted with the appropriate penalty,” the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said.

CAB did not provide reasons for the cap, which came interestingly after a slew of new restrictions announced by various agencies to avert a sudden rise in COVID-19 cases in Metro Manila. Apart from the passenger cap at NAIA, curfews, localized lockdowns and checkpoints were reinforced, while minors were again prohibited out in the National Capital Region.

On Tuesday, 4,437 new coronavirus cases were recorded nationwide. A breakdown of this data by region is yet to be uploaded, although over the past few days, NCR has accounted for the bulk of cases.

For the heavily-battered travel sector, the new rule marked the first tightening in protocols since a series of easing that started in October with Philippines’ reopening of skies. 

In response to the new directive, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it stands ready to comply, although all flights for March 18 will go on as scheduled. Succeeding flights in the next days and weeks will be covered by the limit and most likely see cancellations.

“We will be announcing in due course any flight cancellations on other days for the rest of the period,” PAL said in a statement. Other carriers have yet to comment or issue new guidelines. 

Strictly speaking, Metro Manila is under a looser general community quarantine for March, under which 50% to 75% of most businesses are allowed to operate, travel between localities are allowed and most recently, should go unhampered, while tourism is permitted, following health protocols. — Xave Gregorio



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