Local and foreign tourists flocked to the Puerto Princesa International Airport (PPIA) as early as 3:30 a.m. Saturday to try and leave the city before the effectivity of the local quarantine period from March 15 to April 14, 2020.
Hundreds lined up early at the entrance of the PPIA in Barangay San Miguel, hoping to get a chance to rebook their flights, after the city government’s impending closure of the airport for domestic travel.
Many passengers expressed frustration with the city government’s decision, most of them complaining they were not even allowed time and opportunity to fix their flight schedules and options.
“Sana binigyan nila kami ng chance. Kadarating lang namin kahapon dumiretso kami sa El Nido para mag-tour and nasa kalagitnaan kami ng tour namin nang i-advise kami na we need to fly back na. In-advise kami ng Air Asia na 24 hours open sila dito pero nang dumating kami wala. We have to check-in pa ulit sa hotel para matulog kagabi and then we went back here earlier mga 3:00 a.m. but we’re not given any assurance,” said a passenger who asked not to be identified said.
“Nagta-try kami magpa-rebook online pero hindi gumagana, tinawagan namin ‘yong airline ang advise sa amin, pumunta na lang kami ng airport, Monday pa sana ang flight namin, kadarating lang namin kahapon then pagdating namin, nagpaparebook na sana kami, pero hanggang ngayon, chance passenger pa rin kami,” said Gilbert, a tourist from Cebu.
Foreign tourists have expressed worry they would not make it back to their countries in time before Manila imposes a lockdown on Monday.
“We are supposed to fly from Manila to Sydney tomorrow night, we are not sure yet if we can fly out today. Cebu Pacific is not yet informing us anything about our international flight that’s why we are here today. We don’t have any plans aside from confirming if our flight [to Sydney] is cancelled or not,” said Gerald from Sydney, Australia.
Some were able to have their flights rebooked, such as a group of Polish nationals who recently came from El Nido and was already in the province for two weeks.
“We were very lucky because the original passengers didn’t come and so we were able to get the seats, we would love to stay in the island for few more days but not a month since we also have jobs back in Poland. Hopefully, this virus could stop now so everything could go back into place,” said Sabrina, a foreign tourist from Poland.