The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it is up to the national agencies to decide on when to open the Puerto Princesa International Airport to commercial flights, as local officials remained divided on the issue.
Virgilio Tagle, provincial and city director of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), told city officials on Monday the national inter-agency task force (IATF) may even veto the issuances by the local governments.
“National [agency] obviously ang masusunod kahit na may ordinansa ang lokal na pamahalaan,” Tagle said during the City Council’s Question Hour.
Engr. Florevic Sonota, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Puerto Princesa City, echoed Tagle’s statement, adding that local government units may however raise their objections.
Governor Jose Alvarez had been pushing for the immediate opening of the city airport, stating it will help boost tourism and the local economy. The City government however has remained firm on its continued closure.
The discussion at the City Council’s regular Monday session centered on when to allow the resumption of commercial flights as the city begins to relax its quarantine restrictions.
Most councilors want to extend the ban until at least June 30, with the city prioritizing the return and processing of local stranded individuals (LSI) and overseas Filipino workers, earlier estimated to be around 2,000 individuals.
Majority floor leader councilor Victor Oliveros reiterated during the Question Hour on Monday that the city government would have to prepare for the eventuality of the reopening of the Puerto Princesa Port (PPP) and Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPIA).
Oliveros added however that safety measures must be in place when this happens.
“COVID-19 is here to stay unless there is vaccine. Kung magbubukas [ng sea port and airport], dapat maalala natin ang mga naganap,” Oliveros said.
Engr. Florevic Sonota, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Puerto Princesa City, said that the airport officials can process at least 180 passengers within three hours.
However, the recommendation was opposed by city incident commander Dr. Dean Palanca, in one of their joint meetings, Sonota said.
“We can process two aircrafts every three hours with 90 carrying capacity, so 180 passengers. Doc Dean said hindi nila kaya ang pagte-test,” Sonota added.
Councilor Roy Ventura, chairman of committee on health at the City Council, acknowledged that the local healthcare system lacks medical supplies. He moved to call on the Department of Health (DOH) to act on the earlier requests to mount and replenish the medical needs of the City.
Meanwhile, Joel E. Paredes, branch manager of Philippine Airlines (PAL) Puerto Princesa City, clarified that the commercial flights they previously announced to the public had been postponed pending advisory from the local government.
“Wala pang confirmation of flight schedule. Indicated on our most recent advisory, we are awaiting development from the local government,” Paredes said.
Louie Fe Nacasi, deputy manager of AirAsia Inc. Puerto Princesa City, said they are also awaiting the advise from local officials.