No international flights out of Luzon airports starting March 20

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 17) — Airports in Luzon will stop all outbound international flights starting Friday after the government gave a 72-hour window to all those who wish to leave the country after heightened measures were put in place to control the spread of COVID-19.

Under the guidelines crafted by the Inter-Agency Task Force and approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, "Outbound passengers intending to depart Philippines from any of the international airports in Luzon shall be allowed to travel for a period of 72 hours from effectivity of the enhanced community quarantine."

The enhanced community quarantine over the entire island of Luzon took effect midnight Tuesday and is set to end on April 13. The air travel restrictions takes effect at 12 a.m. Friday.

International passengers on their way to the Philippines who were already in transit upon the effectivity of the order will be allowed entry into the country.

Following this announcement, the country's flag carrier Philippine Airlines said its international flight will operate only until midnight of March 20.

AirAsia said it is canceling international flights from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport from March 20 until April 14.

Budget airline Cebu Pacific also announced that all of its domestic and international flights will be cancelled from March 19 to April 14, “in support of government regulations on COVID-19.” The Gokongwei-led carrier added that it would still operate flights from Manila to Bangkok, Thailand; Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya in Japan; Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; Singapore; Taipei, Taiwan; and Bali, Indonesia until Wednesday.

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport — the country's main gateway, Clark International Airport, Subic Bay International Airport, and Bicol International Airport are all affected as they're located in Luzon. 

The Philippine government imposed strict home quarantine and tightened travel restrictions over the biggest island in the country as the number of cases of coronavirus disease or COVID-19 rises to 142 — with majority of the cases recorded in Luzon.

Who are allowed to travel?

Under the recommendation, all inbound Filipino citizen, including their foreign spouse and children; holders of Permanent Resident Visa; and holders of Diplomat visas will be allowed to enter the country despite the travel restrictions.

However, the Office for Transportation Security said they cannot be fetched by their loved ones from the airport as this is not considered essential travel. OTS Administrator Usec. Raul del Rosario said the Transportation Department is working to help bring them to their homes.

"Meron pang P2P buses sa NAIA. Pwede ring maghatid sa mga darating na OFW papunta sa kanilang bahay ang accredited transport providers but will need approval from IATF," he said in a media briefing on Tuesday.

[Translation: There are still point-to-point buses in NAIA. Accredited transport providers can also bring home the arriving OFWs, but this needs IATF's approval.]

Before the Duterte administration expanded the community quarantine, domestic flights were barred from flying in and out of NAIA.

Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Libiran said separately that all passengers, “regardless of nationality,” would be allowed to leave the Philippines within the 72-hour leeway unless their flights have been cancelled.