Inbound passenger, commercial flights temporarily suspended

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 3) — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has suspended inbound international flights for a week starting 8 a.m. on Sunday, May 3.

In a statement on Sunday, the CAAP said that it has already issued a Notice to Airmen to suspend all inbound international passenger and commercial flights up to 8 a.m. of May 10.

Nine international airports in the country were covered by the notice. These are:

- Ninoy Aquino International Airport

- Davao International Airport

- Clark International Airport

- Iloilo International Airport

- Mactan-Cebu International Airport

- Zamboanga International Airport

- Kalibo International Airport

- Laoag International Airport

- Puerto Princesa International Airport.

Only cargo flights, medical flights, utility flights, and maintenance flights are exempted from the suspension and will remain unhampered.

International flights intending to land or depart from the country must request for an exemption with the CAAP Operations Center at least 36 hours before the scheduled departure from the airport of origin.

National Task Force Against COVID-19 Chief Implementer Carlito Galvez Jr had sent a letter to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade saying that the moratorium on flights is being imposed "to ramp up" the capacity of the government to properly process the growing number of Filipino repatriates coming back to the Philippines on a daily basis.

"This will also allow the government's front line agencies and instrumentalities 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 said.

The Manila International Airport Authority announced on its Facebook page late Saturday evening that it had to suspend passenger and commercial flights to and from the Philippines, in accordance with the government decision to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

The Philippine Airlines also canceled special passenger flights from the United States bound for Manila from May 4 up to May 8.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that its repatriation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is being adjusted to comply with the directives of the task force.

"OFWs will remain where they are in the meantime - many ship crew members are assisted by their manning agencies, some others register with the embassy then proceed to pick-up points or the airport when a flight is scheduled," it said in a statement.

Tugade earlier appealed to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines and other airport officials to consider opening airports in areas under the general community quarantine to make commercial flights available to passengers.

He said this will gradually jump-start airline operations hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and "plant the seeds for domestic tourism."

Based on the approved Inter-Agency Task Force Resolution 30, delivery services, whether in-house or outsourced, transporting food medicine, or other essential goods will be allowed via land, air or sea travel.

Public transportation is still banned in Metro Manila and under high-risk areas under the enhanced community quarantine until May 15. Only the transit of essential workers and workers from approved services and industries in these areas are allowed.

The Philippines has recorded a total of 8,928 COVID-19 cases, with 1,124 recoveries. A total of 603 individuals have died from the infection to date.