The government’s strict daily cap for international passenger arrivals at the Manila airport would have a “minimal impact” on COVID-19 prevention but will “cause great harm” to the industry, a source from the aviation sector said.
“Risks of virus spread are low, if not negligible, because any infected passengers are identified and isolated by the strict testing regime for all arrivals before they are allowed to proceed to the community,” the source said.
The source added that the COVID-19 positivity rate of returning overseas Filipinos is less than one percent during the March 1 to 10 period.
“So why limit arrivals when the virus threat is not coming from abroad?”
“Surgical measures will help: containment within high density communities, speeding up of vaccination, better contact tracing — not by using blunt instruments such as arrival caps and passenger bans that have little impact on COVID prevention but cause great harm,” the source added.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases imposed a 1,500 daily cap on arrivals divided among various airlines to curb the rising number of COVID-19 cases in the country.
The arrival cap was originally at 4,000 per day in December, reduced to 2,000 daily in January, increased to 3,500 before being set at 1,500.
The new policy of IATF affected about 25,000 passengers so far.
Philippine Airlines recently announced more than 75 cancelled flights for Mar. 18 to April 5.
Canceled PAL flights are from Japan, Qatar, UAE, US, Saudi Arabia, Canada, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Korea, Malaysia, Thailand.
Cebu Pacific, on the other hand, canceled more than 30 flights all the way up to April 20. The affected flights are from Tokyo and Nagoya.
Cathay Pacific reportedly canceled its flights from Hong Kong up to March 28, though it did not specify if these were due to the arrival limits.
The source said many OFWs are affected because the cancellations include OFW-heavy flights from Japan, Middle East, HK, and Singapore, among others.