By Minerva Newman
CEBU CITY – It’s “business as usual” and operations are normal at the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) despite the recent decent declaration of a state of emergency (SOE) at the airport, according to GMR MEGAWIDE Cebu Airport Corporation Chief Executive Advisor Andrew Harrison.
In a press conference at the MCIA Thursday, Harrison said: “It’s business as usual at the MCIA and we continue to collaborate with the various agencies concerned to meet and provide a sense of order as we want to display solidarity with China in handling this situation.”
“The SOE has had no impact on the current state of operations at any of the two terminals at MCIA, except for the temporary travel ban for foreign nationals originating from China, Hong Kong and Macau, there are no additional requirements for passengers, airlines or stakeholders at the airport,” Harrison added.
What the World Health Organization (WHO) advocated since the nCoV outbreak was “not to panic” because the government of China is and has been doing everything to control the spread of the virus, Harrison said.
Harrison clarified that should the MCIAA implement the powers available to it under the SOE, there will be no major changes to airport operations.
He added that there may, however, be some procedural changes in line with government health directives enforced at the time, “given that the situation related to the control and detection of the novel coronavirus is fluid and is constantly being monitored.”
Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) General Manager Steve Dicdican clarified that the declaration of the SOE within MCIA effective February 3, was to ensure that the airport will have the needed facilities for affected stakeholders, particularly travelers.
Dicdican said that MCIA is the main gateway to Visayas and Mindanao and they wanted to be prepared for any eventuality, and ensure that appropriate legal framework was in place should the need arises for MCIAA to take over facilities, such as aircraft hangars to accommodate quarantined passengers.
Dicdican said the SOE prepares the MCIAA to respond in case the “tipping point” comes when a good number of OFWs/residents in China and its SAR will be coming home, and there are about 200,000 of them. These present a especially huge challenge for this kind of emergency, he added.
“This is also to invoke police powers and proceed with emergency procurement if the current health crisis escalates. But so far, for now we have enough facilities to cope with the challenge and handle the situation well,” Dicdican told the media.
Dicdican lauded and acknowledged the roles of the various local government units (LGUs) in Central Visayas and GMCAC in responding to the needs of the airport in dealing with the nCoV crisis.
According to Dicdican, the presidential order clearly directed all heads of government agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCC) such as the MCIAA, to undertake necessary measures for the establishment of repatriation and quarantine facilities.
New precautionary measures
Additional precautionary measures to complement the existing ones were put in place by the MCIA community to align with the national and local order and directives to further enhance the control for the potential spread and transmission of the novel coronavirus.
Mandatory health declaration cards for all international flights: All passengers arriving via international flights in MCIA are required to fill-out a health declaration card provided by the Bureau of Quarantine (BOQ) and all airlines were advised to make a standard in-flight announcement prior to landing at MCIA advising passengers to fill-out the mandatory health declaration cards by the BOQ.
According to Harrison, the health declaration cards are MCIA’s first line of defense to determine whether a passenger has travelled to China and/or its special administrative regions (SAR) within the last fourteen days. It will be thoroughly reviewed by the BOQ which will also be counter-checked by the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
Denied entry for foreign passengers from China and SAR: In compliance with the temporary travel ban implemented by the national government, MCIA has implemented a restriction on the entry of foreign nationals arriving from China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
Foreign passengers who have travelled to China and its SAR within the last fourteen days will also be denied entry to MCIA and Filipino passengers are also restricted from traveling to China, Hong Kong, and Macau until the government lifts the temporary travel ban, Harrison bared.
Designated holding area at MCIA-T2 for Quarantine assessment: For Filipino passengers and with PRS arriving from China and SAR, Filipino passengers or holders of a permanent residency visa (PRV) arriving from China and SAR, and passengers who have travelled to China and SAR within the last fourteen days will be brought to a designated holding area at MCIA Terminal 2 (T2) where they will be assessed for quarantine by the BOQ.
Only members of the Quarantine team are allowed access to the holding area and through the assessment, the BOQ will determine whether a passenger or passengers are subjected for quarantine in designated facilities or for home quarantine.
GMCAC and MCIAA with the Bureaus of Immigration and Quarantine, are working closely to ensure that all airlines operating direct international flights into Cebu from China, Hong Kong, and Macau are aware of the new protocols and take appropriate action to minimize disruption to its inbound and outbound flights, Harrison added.