Passenger aircraft sit parked on the runway of Manila’s international airport in this file photo. All passenger flights into the Philippines were canceled for at least a week starting May 3. (Photo by AFP)
The Philippine government has suspended all passenger and commercial flights into the country except cargo and medical flights for at least a week to ease pressure on quarantine facilities dealing with migrants returning home.
President Rodrigo Duterte consulted medical experts and considered “all angles” before issuing the suspension order, effective May 3, said Carlito Galvez, Jr, head of the country’s Covid-19 task force.
“The president’s primary consideration right now is to ramp up the capacity of the government to address the continuous rise of coronavirus cases through mass testing. We think that opening our borders via international flights will put all our efforts at risk,” Galvez told reporters.
He said the decision was approved and received well by the members of his cabinet.
“Everyone thinks this is what we need for now. This will also allow the government’s frontline agencies … to upgrade their testing and screening protocols and expand existing quarantine and medical facilities to adequately deal with the growing number of repatriates and Covid-19 cases in the Philippines”, he added.
The decision, however, has raised concerns among more than 10,000 Filipino flight attendants and crews.
Reports say the moratorium on flights was to last a week, but a cabin crew member who wished to remain anonymous said they were told to “wait for further announcements” on the suspension, suggesting it could last longer than a week.
“We only have minimal pay as flight attendants. Our salary only gets higher if we have more flying hours. So, without flying hours, we are not getting that much,” said a flight attendant who wished to remain anonymous.
Ground crew employees will also be hit if the longer cancellations remain in effect, she noted.
“Of course, if airports are closed, even our janitors and ground crew are not working. With the indefinite suspension [of flights] by the government, we also don’t know when normal pay and work can resume,” she said.
Meanwhile, Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese has announced that it will hold an online retreat for its clergy from May 4-8.
Archbishop Socrates Villegas will give points for meditation that will cover priestly ministry and the ‘call to service [of priests] amid the coronavirus outbreak.”
As of May 3, the Philippines had recorded 9,223 Covid-19 cases with 607 deaths, according to government figures.