Samar solon hits LGUs refusing to open airports, wants policy gap fixed | Inquirer News
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Samar solon hits LGUs refusing to open airports, wants policy gap fixed

/ 07:30 PM June 05, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The chair of the House transport panel appealed to the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to “bridge the gap” between the policies being implemented by cities and provinces to that of the country’s COVID-19 task force as he lamented the refusal of some local government units (LGUs) to open their airports to domestic flights.

During a House panel hearing on Friday, transportation committee chair Samar 1st District Rep. Edgar Mary Sarmiento flagged the supposed lack of consistency among some LGUs in implementing the guidelines set by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID).

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Of the 40 airports in the country which serve commercial flights, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Jim Sydiongco told the panel that only 13 airports have so far allowed domestic flights.

“While airlines have already prepared everything for them to fly, they cannot because they are questioned again on local authority. As of today, under the general community quarantine (GCQ) only 13 airports are open while the rest are still awaiting approval of local government units when guidelines are already set by the IATF,” Sarmiento said.

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The IATF earlier issued guidelines allowing domestic flights between areas under GCQ.

However, the national government’s interagency task force for the coronavirus pandemic allowed LGUs to also set their own standards and reject the arrival of flights.

“We just want to have consistency if not the airlines cannot take off…The airline industry is at a total loss. We just have to be consistent with policy,”  Sarmiento added.

‘Own interpretation’

Interior Undersecretary RJ Echiverri explained to the committee that during the first two weeks after the IATF issues guidelines, “local governments tend to have their own interpretation.”

“Eventually once they are reminded by the regional directors, they intend to follow at once. It’s really like that, it could be an isolated case once in a while for other local governments but DILG’s supervision is very keen on reminding all of our LGUs,” the DILG official said.

In response, Sarmiento appealed to the DILG to resolve the gap between the implementation of policies of the LGUs and the IATF.

“When airline industries are trying to help the economy, the shipping industry is trying to help the economy again it is misinterpreted at the ground by the local government jurisdiction,” the lawmaker said.

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He also pointed to the cases of locally-stranded individuals, who cannot fly to their home provinces due to some airports not reopening.

“We would like to appeal, there are a lot of these locally stranded individuals, not in the category of overseas [Filipino] workers, not on the returning overseas Filipinos but those who wanted to fly,” he added.

Deputy Speaker Sorsogon 1st District Rep. Evelina Escudero, likewise, called on the DILG to “coordinate with all the governors all over the country, especially those who have airports to inquire if they accommodate already the airlines.”

Echiverri then assured the panel that he would refer the matter to DILG Secretary Eduardo Año.

At the beginning of the hearing, Sarmiento also asked representatives from the League of Cities of the Philippines (LCP) and the League of Provinces of the Philippines (LPP) if they could help ensure that vital airports “will now be open to flying allowed passengers.”

Both LCP and the LPP committed to forwarding the request of the House committee to the local governments of the concerned cities and provinces.

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