The city government has objected to a proposal of transportation secretary Arthur Tugade to reopen commercial flights at the Puerto Princesa City International Airport, citing health risks amidst COVID-19.
In a letter addressed to Tugade obtained by Palawan News on Sunday, Mayor Lucilo Bayron said that apart from the threat of COVID-19, the opening of the city airport “will be pointless” because the local tourism sector that it serves is not yet prepared.
“We believe that it will be pointless to start commercial flights considering that the fact that the inter-agency task force (IATF) guidelines still prohibit the operations of hotels, restaurants, and tourist destinations. Where would the tourists stay, eat, and go?,” Bayron asked.
Tugade had earlier urged relevant national agencies and local governments of areas that had been downgraded to General Community Quarantine to “seriously consider” opening their airports.
In his reply letter, Bayron also pointed out that the city is still working to strengthen its medical capability to handle the COVID-19 threat.
“The city has no available RTPCR confirmatory test for COVID-19. It takes 7-10 days to get a result from Manila after sending a sample,” Bayron said.
He stated that the city government is still working on the setting up and accreditation of a GeneXpert facility that can conduct rapid testing locally.
“Medicines are worryingly inadequate to cater to a surge of COVID cases since it is very hard to but these medicines even in Manila right now,” Bayron added.
“Some countries/cities that tried to reopen their economies experienced a resurgence of the dreaded virus and we do not wish to take chances with it especially that the city’s and province’s overall healthcare facilities and personnel are dismally inadequate,” he added.
Tugade, in his statement released by the DOTr said the opening of airports in GCQ areas “will plant the seeds for domestic tourism,” and thus should “seriously be considered”. (with a report from Ruth Rodriguez)