The Department of Transportation (DOTr) will soon be reopening more airports to help restart local tourism and to ease the travel woes of returning overseas Filipino workers.
In a late night press briefing, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said they are now planning to resume the operations of the international gateways in Clark, Cebu, and Davao starting next month.
The opening of the new airports aims to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila.
Tugade said Clark and Cebu already have medical facilities that could process swab samples of suspected coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patients.
He said this will ensure that all arriving passengers are Covid-free.
“Our intention is with the start of the transition MECQ (modified enhanced community quarantine) to GCQ (general community quarantine) to open two international gateways,” Tugade said.
Aside from the three aforementioned airports, DoTR is also eyeing the reopening of the airports in Zamboanga, Iloilo, Bacolod and Bohol.
Once the additional airports are reopened, Tugade said it will also allow the resumption of domestic travel as well as domestic tourism.
Currently, air travel is only allowed between GCQ to GCQ areas, while tourism is only allowed in MGCQ areas.
As of Thursday, President Rodrigo R. Duterte said only the National Capital Region, Davao City, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, Calabarzon, Pangasinan province and Albay are under GCQ.
“The rest of the country will be placed under modified general community quarantine. The rest of the country will be placed under modified general community quarantine,” Duterte said.
Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said the additional airports would also make the travel of returning overseas Filipino workers (OFW) to their home town much easier.
He noted currently, OFWs all arrive in the NAIA, where they will be required to undergo reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) testing.
As of last week, there were 24,000 OFWs, who were stranded in NCR and Batangas, while waiting for their test results.
Those who tested negative were sent to their hometown.
Año said 11,889 of the said OFWs have already been booked for flights back to their provinces.
The remaining 6,648 of the OFWs are also expected to be sent home by Saturday.
With the operations of the additional airports, Año OFWs could arrive at a closer airport to their hometown instead of NAIA and wait for the test result there before the are allowed to go home.