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DOTr's Tugade orders review on the opening of airports in GCQ areas

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade ordered the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and other airport authorities, to seriously consider the reopening of airports in areas covered by the general community quarantine (GCQ) to accommodate commercial aviation operations.

In a statement, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said Tugade gave the instructions during his meeting with the department’s Air Sector on Thursday, April 30, 2020, via video conferencing.

“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,” the Transportation chief said.

For his part, CAAP Director-General Jim Sydiongco informed Tugade that airlines actually have existing and established air route networks within the Visayas and Mindanao which could be put into operation anytime.

“Some airlines are readily capable of mounting inter-island flights to serve communities from one GCQ area to another GCQ area using the inter Visayas and/or Inter Mindanao air routes,” Sydiongco said.

Sydiongco further explained that this practice was known in the aviation sector as the Hub and Spoke model.

Using the Hub and Spoke model, air carriers can use regional airports as an alternative airport hub considering that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga were still under the ECQ and as such, were closed to regular commercial aviation operations.

Tugade noted that with the Hub and Spoke model of operations, commercial airlines with operations normally concentrated in traditional airport hubs such as Manila, Mactan, and Clark, could operate in regional airports such as Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, General Santos, Laguindingan, among others, subject to their aircraft compatibility and configuration.

“We want to operationalize this approach before the end of next week, but of course without compromising health and safety protocols set by the IATF and the Department of Health. Pag-iisipan namin kung paano ito maisasagawa ng maayos at mabilis,” the Transportation chief said. — DVM, GMA News