Mayor bucks plan to reopen Puerto Princesa airport
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan, Philippines — The city government has asked Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade to “seriously reconsider” the plan to reopen to commercial flights Puerto Princesa International Airport and other regional airports under general community quarantine (GCQ).
Mayor Lucilo Bayron, in a letter on Sunday addressed to Tugade, said the city has “serious misgivings” about the proposal to reopen the airports to kick-start the tourism industry.
“We believe that it will be pointless to start commercial flights, considering the fact that the interagency task force guidelines still prohibits the operation of hotels, restaurants and tourist destinations. Where would the tourists stay, eat and go?” Bayron asked.
Tugade has asked airport authorities to “seriously consider” the reopening of domestic terminals in areas under GCQ.
“The reopening of airports in GCQ areas to commercial aviation will gradually jump-start airline operations now hard-hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will plant the seeds for domestic tourism. This should seriously be considered,” Tugade said, talking to the air transportation sector in a video conference last Thursday.
No testing laboratory
Bayron also pointed out that the city had no testing laboratory for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) and depended highly on centers in Manila, which usually returned test results after seven to ten days.
He was worried about the inadequacy of medicines available in the island-province of Palawan if COVID-19 cases would surge in the city once it reopened its airport.
“Some countries/cities that tried to reopen their economies experienced a resurgence of the dreaded virus and we do not wish to take chances with it, especially that the city’s and province’s overall health-care facilities and personnel are dismally inadequate,” he added.
On Saturday, Bayron lifted the “extreme enhanced community quarantine” in Barangay Tanabag after relatives and other close contacts of the lone COVID-19 patient in the city tested negative for infection.
This, after the city health officer, Dr. Dean Palanca, announced on Facebook on Friday night that all 18 people who were “linked” or “exposed” to the patient tested negative, too.
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