As the city’s decision to ban domestic travel at the Puerto Princesa International Airport took effect Sunday morning, chaos loomed at the airport’s terminal facility with hundreds of distraught and angry passengers trying to find a way out of the city.
City officials, consulting with Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez, eventually decided to allow for “mercy flights” to clear the airport of stranded passengers.
Provincial and city officials negotiated with airline companies to open out of the city to Clark Airport in Pampanga and to Cebu in the Visayas, with Manila already closed to air travel.
Local officials also took it upon themselves to assist the stranded passengers inside the terminal while waiting for their flights.
“Pinapunta ko ‘yong mga staff para mag-assist mamaya sa pagbigay ng pagkain. And we will try to find out yong mga passengers na need ng accomodations mamayang gabi, ‘yong may mga anak and matatanda, the province will provide accomodation. Pero ‘yong may mga kakayanan, hindi na sila kasama,”Atty. Jay Bolusa, provincial administrator, told Palawan News.
One confirmed flight from Puerto Princesa City to Clark, Pampanga was allowed to leave Sunday.
Limited domestic flights going to Clark and Cebu were also scheduled starting March 16.
(NOTE TO PASSENGERS: Please check with the airline management the status of your flights as schedules may change without prior notice.)
Returning flights to Palawan will also pick up local residents. However, only those who have proof of residence will be entertained, according to local authorities.
Returning Palaweños: PUM
City officials, however, said returning passengers starting March 15 will be considered as Persons Under Monitoring (PUM) and will be required to undergo “home quarantine” for 14 days as a measure to ensure they are not carriers of the COVID-19 virus.
“Kinukuha ‘yong health form nila upon arrival. The barangay health workers are tasked to monitor them and observe their quarantine,” Earl Timbancaya, chief of City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO), said.
The concerned public may also report PUMs who broke quarantine to City Emergency and Safety Unit (CESU) at 09154092719, or at their respective Barangay Health Emergency Response Team (BHERT).
Meanwhile, municipalies throughtout the province, including El Nido, Narra, Culion, Coron, Brooke’s Point, Bataraza, Cagayancillo, Dumaran, Taytay, Cuyo, Magsaysay, and Balabac began putting up border checkpoints to conduct random health checks on incoming passengers.
Medical supplies in municipal health offices (MHO) in the Calamianes Island Group were also replenished after three persons under investigation (PUI) were admitted to Culion Sanitarium General Hospital (CGSH), said PDRRMO chief Jerry Alili.
Coron town health officer Dr. Allan Guintapan said that PUI30 and PUI31 were municipal councilors, who attended the Philippine Councilors League (PCL) last February. PUI29 is a 22-year-old female with no travel history. The three PUIs were admitted at CSGH in northeast Palawan.
Romalyn Racho, regional head of Health Education and Promotion Unit of the Department of Health (DOH), said that PUI26 is a 50-year-old male Australian national with travel history in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Thailand. He is currently isolated in a government hospital in southern Palawan.
PUI27 is a 48-year-old female who traveled in Singapore, while PUI28 is a 26-year-old male Australian national. Both were admitted to a government hospital in Puerto Princesa City.
“Five specimens were delivered to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) and another 1 will be sent this evening. We can expect results within 24 to 48 hours upon arrival of the specimen to RITM,” Racho said.
PUI16, who tested negative for COVID-19, was discharged on Saturday.
PUI19 and PUI20, who were isolated in a government hospital in the city, are still awaiting test results.
Palawan has 11 PUIs admitted in government hospitals throughout the province, as of press time. // Photos by Palawan News Team and MBLT-4
(With reports from Celeste Anna Formoso, Ruth Rodriguez, Romar Miranda, Ruil Alabi, Jayra Taboada, Shoogar Santos, and Genn Magdayao)