Dr. Mary Ann Navarro (first from right) during a COVID-19 briefing at the Capitol. (Photo courtesy of Palawan PIO)

Transport of the specimens of persons under investigation (PUI) from Palawan for COVID-19 confirmatory testing has hit a roadblock because of the refusal of some airline companies to accept them as they are “not licensed to carry hazardous goods”.

Dr. Mary Ann Navarro, chief of the Palawan Provincial Health Office (PHO), said Wednesday in a press briefing that Airswift refused to carry the samples even with good coordination because the cargo is considered risky and dangerous.

“Nagkaproblema po lalo na kagabi (March 17) ay hindi tinanggap ng Airswift [ang specimen] kahit maganda na ang coordination kasi hindi daw sila licensed to carry hazardous goods kahit hindi naman hazardous ang specimen. Ito rin ay properly packed at may permit ng Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ). Nag-alangan ang mga staff at wala rin silang manager doon na magde-decide kaya iniwan nila ang specimen,” she said.

She said P50,000 had to be paid to transport the specimen to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) by the Philippine Adventist Medical Aviation Services (PAMAS).

Navarro said their back-up plan is to request the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to help out since there is a suspension of all types of travel.

“Ang backup plan ay ‘yong military kasi willing naman sila basta goods or supplies na dadalhin to-and-from Manila at basta hindi pasahero. Mayroon din na PAMAS ambulance, ito ang kinausap ni Governor (Jose Alvarez) para dalhin ang mga specimen. Binigyan naman tayo ng discount kasi dapat P90,000 pero ginawang P50,000 — mahal kasi ang aviation fuel,” she said.

Navarro said that the carrier will also transport other vital medical supplies from Manila.

Ang maganda naman dito ay maco-confirm natin kung may positive cases tayo ng COVID-19 o wala. Makakadala din ng test kits pabalik dito kasi konti na lang, and other vital supplies na kaya ng eroplano,” she said.

“Ang official testing sites lang kasi ngayon ay RITM Alabang, mayron din na mga sub-national testing facilities pero kulang sila sa machine na gagamitin kasi hindi naman basta-basta ‘yan,” Navarro added.