Local government units (LGU) are calling for a temporary cancellation of direct flights from Hong Kong to Puerto Princesa City International Airport (PPCIA), following the first positive novel coronavirus (nCoV) case from a 38-year-old Chinese woman who entered the country via a chartered flight from Hong Kong.
Richard Ligad, city information chief, said Thursday night that mayor Lucilo Bayron asked for a recommendation from Dr. Ric Panganiban, chief of the City Health Office (CHO), hoping to mitigate the possible entry of the nCoV through international links.
“Unang nag-confirm kanina ang DOH na meron ng positive [nCoV case]. Mayor Lucilo Bayron asked for a recommendation from the City Health Office, through Dr. Ric Panganiban, na i-kansela na ang Cebu Pacific flight from Hong Kong to Puerto Princesa,” Ligad said.
Ligad said Panganiban already passed the recommendation which will be taken Friday to the office of Cebu Pacific in the city.
Charo Logarta Lagamon, Cebu Pacific spokesperson, received the verbal notice, but held off response pending review of the airline management.
“We are coordinating with the authorities and we are assessing and reviewing our operations because of the developments related to the Wuhan coronavirus and we will make announcements accordingly,” she said.
“If there are any changes in our flights, first and foremost siguro kailangan muna nating i-notify ‘yong pasaherong directly na nandito sa mga flights na ito. But nonetheless kasi, we have since last week, we have been offering or giving passengers booked on our flights within the Philippines and mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau the option na kung if they are not comfortable flying at this time, then they can actually opt to rebook, get a full refund, or put the ticket in a travel fund. ‘Yan po ay free of charge,” Lagamon added.
She said these offers are for Cebu Pacific flights from last week until February 29.
“We will make announcements as soon as we are ready,” Lagamon said.
Cebu Pacific is not the only airline that has direct international flights to Palawan. Tiger Air has chartered flights from Taipei, Taiwan, and South Korea also has a regular direct flight to the city through the international airport.
Earlier, Palawan provincial board member Ryan Maminta proposed a temporary ban on the entry of Chinese nationals in the province.
“This is a primordial concern. Diplomacy, social, and economic interests can take a back seat. Self-preservation must take priority,” Maminta said.
The city and provincial governments have since enforced tighter security measures in airports and seaports to prevent the entry of the newest strain of coronavirus which was discovered in late December 2019.