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Local airlines decry 'unclear' LGU guidelines on domestic flights

Local airlines on Wednesday decried what they described as "unclear" guidelines of some local government units when it comes to allowing domestic flights to resume in their area amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

"'Yung ibang mga city is unclear. Yung mga ibang city they are saying, although they are [under] general community quarantine, they don't want passengers in air transport," said Roberto Lim, vice chairman of the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP), at a forum.

Due to this, Lim called on airport authorities such as Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority , Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and Clark International Airport to clarify the matter.

"We hope this is clarified by the airport authorities—Mactan, CAAP, Clark—so that the air carriers providing domestic transport, they [can] already resume," he said.

Lim said flights have been ready since June 1 when the government placed Metro Manila under general community quarantine.

Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade has earlier said domestic flights are allowed between areas under GCQ provided proper coordination is done with the concerned LGUs. Some LGUs, however, are not keen on allowing the resumption of domestic flights.

The apparent confusion has resulted in flight cancellations and passengers getting stranded in airports.

AirAsia announced it would resume flights on June 5 instead of June 3 as earlier announced. 

Cebu Pacific earlier announced it would resume flights on June 2, but on Tuesday it canceled its Manila-General Santos flights for the day after it failed to get the necessary approval from the local government.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines, on Facebook, said it has canceled some domestic flights scheduled for June 3 to 7 "due to fine-tuning of local government entry restrictions and requirements."

Former Tourism Secretary Narzalina Lim said airlines are already selling tickets for domestic flights but some LGUs are not yet ready to receive them because of incomplete health response capacity.

"The airlines started selling tickets for domestic flights — but not necessarily for leisure but for non-discretionary travel—but some of the LGUs are saying they will only be ready in September because they are still building testing centers," she said in the forum.

She also said accommodation industries like hotels and resorts have not yet complied with the health standards set by the Department of Health and Department of Tourism.

She said these agencies still have to issue certificates to operate to these establishments.

"Can you imagine how many inspection teams DOT will have to fill to make sure that the accommodation security is ready,” she said.

"The airlines are having a difficult time when they can mount the flights."

According to Lim, a prolonged delay in the resumption of domestic flights will affect the recovery of several industries.

"September, that is three, four months from now. I think that would be a very difficult situation if you have no domestic aviation in the Philippines not only for tourism but als in trade and commerce," he said.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Benedicto Yujioco said during the forum that some of their members are affected by the suspension of domestic flights.

"Of course nahirapan our members involved din sa air transport and as consequence ‘yung mga members namin na involved sa hotel industries and other industries related to travel," Yujioco said. --KBK, GMA News