Government defers collecting fees as airlines struggle

This photo dated February 24, 2020, shows a sparse number of passengers at the check-in counters at the arrival hall inside the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. The sight is becoming more frequent as appetite for travel has gone down after more countries reported cases of the coronavirus disease of 2019, according to the Civil Aeronautics Board.

THE takeoff and landing charges that the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) levels against local and some international carriers will be deferred, due to huge losses from COVID-19.

Miaa General Manager Ed Monreal made the announcement during a press conference where he said they had the discussions with airport stakeholders to focus on how the premier airport could provide help for air carriers suffering heavy losses due to the virus.

Monreal said the Miaa receives about P58 million per month in landing and takeoff fees from the local carriers.

“The Miaa will defer payment for local and international air carriers, starting today [Monday] until the threat of coronavirus is gone,” he said. “That is one way we can help our local and some international carriers who are affected by the dire situations.”

Joining Monreal at the meeting were Transportation Undersecretary Reinier Yebra, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) Director General Jim Sydiongco and Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla.

Sydiongco said President Duterte will start going to other local destinations on board of local carriers “to promote our local tourism, as one way of helping our local carriers.”

Sydiongco said the most affected by the COVID-19 virus is the Kalibo International Airport where some 38 international flights, mostly from China, have been canceled.

“We are losing 4,000 foreign tourists per day, mostly Chinese at Kalibo airport, “ he said.

Local carriers Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia have been allowed to occupy the vacant slots at the Naia for their local destinations. On the other hand, some international airlines have temporarily left due to the virus.

The International Air Transportation Association (Iata) earlier said the global airline industry will be “severely impacted” by the COVID-19 and called on governments to implement relief measures.

On the other hand, Monreal said to control the spread of COVID-19, they put up dozens of hand sanitizers in every corners of the terminals, limited the issuance of visitor passes and suspended the familiarization tours, or allowing movie and filming and other non-airport related activities.

Student who are on-the-jobs training were confined outside of the four Naia terminals, Monreal said. The decision comes as a preventive measure due to the spread of coronavirus, COVID-19, worldwide.

Qatar shuts door

Meanwhile, tiny emirate Qatar has temporarily banned the entry of travelers from the Philippines and 13 other countries over coronavirus concerns.

This was reported by the Philippine Embassy in Doha, which posted the advisory on Monday. Ambassaddor Alan Timbayan signed the advisory Sunday night, announcing the state is banning the entry of Doha-bound passengers with travel history to the following countries within February 24 to March 9: Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Iraq, South Korea, Lebanon, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Syria and Thailand.

Qatar itself has recorded 15 cases of the COVID-19.  Qatar’s decision affects all individuals intending to enter from these countries, including visas upon arrival, those with a residence or work permit, and temporary visitors.

The statement said the step is in line with Qatar’s efforts to take all necessary measures to limit the spread.

Many returning overseas Filipino workers are afraid that the next travel ban will be imposed on Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East.

President Duterte has declared a state of public health emergency upon the recommendation of the Health department, which raised Code Red sublevel 1—a “preemptive call to ensure that national and local government, and public, and private, health-care providers can prepare for possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases.”

Image credits: Nonie Reyes


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