MCIAA getting ahead of other Phil airports

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Valeriano Avila (The Freeman) - July 16, 2020 - 12:00am

As of press time, I haven’t heard or gotten any reports from the team of Sec. Roy Cimatu here in Cebu City that we are now under a new General Community Quarantine (GCQ). I suspect that whatever their decision will be would be decided by the time past my deadline. So in the meantime, I will be checking through my Facebook page if there would be any changes in our situation in Cebu City. In the meantime, let us just wait.

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In the meantime, we read the news report that the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), together with the GMR MEGAWIDE Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC), recently started operating the Philippines’ and world’s first airport-dedicated COVID-19 PCR testing laboratory. Actually, I heard of this from no other than Andrew Harrison of GMR-Megawide when I interviewed him last month on my TV show.

As Mr. Harrison pointed out, what they are doing in MCIA is in compliance with the directive of Department of Transportation Secretary Art Tugade for airports to have a dedicated molecular laboratory. Actually, last month was something that surprised the DOTr, as MCIA was the first to have this facility even before Sec. Tugade signed that order for all airports to have such a facility. The airport laboratory holds a BSL-2 certification from the Department of Health (DOH) and the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM).

I’ll have you know that this 400-square-meter laboratory was designed to process 1,500 to 3,000 tests per day with test results available after 24 hours, the shortest time in the country to release swab test results. This is good for passengers arriving from other places to get tested in a laboratory where they won’t have to wait for a long time to get the results. As MCIAA General Manager and CEO Atty. Steve Dicdican said: “When it became clear that testing capability was going to be a prerequisite for the resumption of international travel, we immediately embarked on the ambitious project of putting up the fastest built and accredited molecular laboratory with the capability to do mass testing and generate results in the quickest possible time.”

Dicdican added that the airport would not profit a single cent from the laboratory because they envisioned this to be their contribution to the government’s effort to bring home stranded OFWs at minimal cost and in jumpstarting the economy. The COVID-19 testing laboratory, with state-of-the-art facilities, can process about 900 swab samples per day rising to 2,000 per day for the benefit of arriving OFWs, seafarers, and locally stranded individuals.

This means that having such a facility would augment the government’s testing capacity and fast track the processing of arriving OFWs and seafarers and decongest Manila. Indeed, most of the flights of Philippine Airlines (PAL) are mercy flights, flying in stranded OFWs from all over the world as the test results would be available online to DOH after 24-hours. This is a huge sigh of relief for our OFWs returnees.

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Finally, the United States has come up with its new US policy rejecting most Chinese claims in South China Sea. What the United States has done was merely following the decision done by the International Tribunal in The Hague that ruled in favor of the Philippines in a maritime dispute way back in 2012 that concluded China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea (SCS) or as we call it the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

As expected, Chinese President Xi Jinping rejected the decision by the Permanent Court of Arbitration, saying "China will never accept any claim or action based on those awards." But all the other claimants, Malaysia, Vietnam or Taiwan and the Philippines can only rely on the decision made by the International Tribunal.

Now the United States has also joined the other claimants in proclaiming that China’s claims to the South China Sea were illegal. China had boycotted the proceedings simply because it has no solid evidence to present to the International Tribunal to legalize its claim.

The fact that China abrogated a Treaty with the United Kingdom to keep Hong Kong as a Special Administrative Region (SAR) is proof that China doesn’t respect any treaty it signs with foreign governments.

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