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Stringent mobility restriction may result to crash of airline sector — Concepcion

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Stringent mobility restriction may result to crash of airline sector â Concepcion
This photo taken on February 23, 2020 shows a worker cleaning chairs at the boarding area while arriving passengers disembark at the international airport in Manila.
AFP / Romeo Gacad

MANILA, Philippines — Excessive travel requirements imposed by the national and local governments could result in the crash of the local aviation industry, an adviser of President Rodrigo Duterte said Friday. 

“For these airline companies to survive, there has to be [a] sustainable number of passengers especially for the tourism industry,” said Presidential Adviser for Entrepreneurship Joey Concepcion.

During a meeting, major airline groups sought the help of Concepcion in urging the government to allow increased mobility of vaccinated Filipinos in order to sustain the recovery of revenues lost since the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020.

Stakeholders of the airline sector asked the government to relax some rules to help encourage Filipinos to travel, especially those who are fully vaccinated.
 
Among the rules they hope to be removed include the multiple requirements for traveling such as the expensive RT-PCR test for domestic destinations and long quarantines for arriving passengers from international flights.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines, represented by President and COO Gilbert Sta. Maria and Senior Vice President and Chief Strategy and Planning Officer Dexter Lee, proposed a new protocol to reduce risk and cost to passengers of international flights.

Under the proposal, passengers will be tested 72 hours before departure to help reduce positivity rate and risk and will undergo quarantine upon arrival. Passengers will be required to undergo the RT-PCR test on the third day. If the result is negative, they can go out of the quarantine facility on the fifth day and continue home quarantine.
 
This proposal would help passengers save as much as P25,000 pesos aside from enjoying a more comfortable quarantine in the comfort of their own home.
 
The stakeholders also called on the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious to consider placing North America on the list of green countries since this is the biggest market for local airlines. PAL had earned $1 billion from the North American market alone before the pandemic.
 
Cebu Pacific, for its part, asked the government to release guidelines to allow fully vaccinated Filipinos to travel locally to help start tourism and economic activities.
 
“They only must present a vaccination card or DICT vaccination certificate as sole requirement” said Cebu Pacific Vice President for Cargo Alex Reyes, adding local government units may require RT-PCR test for unvaccinated travelers.
 
Air Asia CEO Ricky Isla suggested the use of antigen testing if testing will still be required since this is more convenient and cheaper.
 
The proposals raised are similar to the Bakuna Bubble being pushed by Concepcion.

Dr. Edsel Salvana, one of the advisers of the Department of Health, said that he supports the reopening of businesses but advised that it must be done safely.

“I understand the plight of the airline industry. I promise to put all of their concerns and proposals on the table in our next meeting,” Salvana said.
 
The airline industry assured the IATF that they are well-equipped and prepared because they have been doing these measures even before the pandemic.

Helping the airline industry is also important to the survival of hotels, travel agents and operators and tourism-related businesses, most of which are small and medium enterprises scattered in the country, the stakeholders said.

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