Senators question gov’t decision to allow inbound flights of 400 Filipinos per day
MANILA, Philippines — Some senators on Monday expressed concern over the country’s capability to accommodate 400 inbound passengers who will be required to undergo a PCR-based COVID-19 test and facility-based quarantine once they land in the Philippines.
Earlier, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said inbound international flights landing in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila will be allowed in certain days staring on May 11 until June 10.
Facing the Senate public services committee on the gradual resumption of public transportation, Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) General Manager Ed Monreal said flights which will be allowed to come in will have a cap of 400 passengers per day.
Monreal explained that inbound commercial flights will be allowed every day except for Mondays and Thursdays.
“Ang protocol po natin ngayon, except Mondays and Thursdays, which is designated for charter flights, repatriation, all the days po pupwede po silang pumasok, ang mga commercial operations with a cap of 400 passengers,” Monreal said.
On questioning by Senate President Pro Tempore, Monreal said these passengers will only be comprised of returning Filipino residents and overseas Filipino workers.
“I am not against allowing the Filipinos to come home. In fact, I think we should be able to prioritize that. Just to make sure—we are allowing 400 Filipinos to come home every day,” Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto told the Miaa chief.
“It’s the least we can do. We are not talking about opening our airport, our tourism industry, for foreigners to come in?” Recto further asked, to which Monreal answered in the affirmative.
Monreal said all these passengers will then be required to undergo a PCR-based test and will be quarantined in a facility pending the result of the test.
“Pag nag negative sa PCR, they will be allowed to go home. Hindi po pinapayagang umalis immediately,” Monreal said.
“Kaya po nag-limit na sa 400 para maibsan at matulungan ang quarantine facilites,” he added.
But Sen. Grace Poe said that allowing inbound international flights may not have been a well-thought of idea, given that the government will have to test each of the 400 incoming passengers every day on top of the testing already being done in the country.
Poe, who is presiding over the hearing, expressed worry that testing these much incoming passengers may not be sustainable.
“Nako, parang hindi yata kaya, I mean it doesn’t look like this is something that we can sustain in even just a couple of weeks. Saan mo ilalagay everyday 400 people? And ang swab test will take at least two to three days… The general population, we only test how many thousands, meaning we will have to test the 400 incoming ones as a priority as opposed to testing our citizens cause we only have so much capability when it comes to processing these,” she said.
“Parang hindi masyadong pinagisipan ito bago natin pinayagan ang flights?” she further lamented.
Like Poe, Senator Francis Tolentino also feared that the government may not be able to accommodate this number of incoming passengers.
“San niyo ilaagay ‘yon? And that would be daily. Lolobo talaga ‘yon, baka mahirapan tayo,” he said.
But Monreal said that that was the reason why incoming international flights were temporarily suspended from May 3 to May 9.
“The reason why pinagutos po na i-restrict from May 3 ay because para mahakinga ng konti yung quarantine facilities natin,” he said.
“So ngayon po ay ginawa po 400 lang po para mabigyan ng atensyon ang tamang pagche-check dito sa paliparan,” he added.
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