By Ariel Fernandez
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has ordered the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), along with other airport authorities, to seriously consider the reopening of airports in areas covered by the general community quarantine (GCQ) to accommodate commercial aviation operations.
Secretary Tugade gave the instructions during his meeting with the DOTr Air Sector on Thursday, 30 April 2020, via video conferencing.
The reopening of airports in GCQ areas to commercial aviation will gradually jump start airline operations now hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
This will plant the seeds for domestic tourism. This should seriously be considered,” Secretary Tugade said.
During the meeting, CAAP Director General Capt. Jim Sydiongco informed Secretary Tugade that airlines actually have existing and established air route networks within the Visayas and Mindanao which can be used anytime to put into operation the Secretary’s instructions.
Some airlines are readily capable of mounting inter-island flights to serve communities from one GCQ area to another GCQ area using the inter Visayas and/or Inter Mindanao air routes,” said Sydiongco.
Sydiongco further explained that this practice is known in the aviation sector as the Hub and Spoke model.
Using the Hub and Spoke model, air carriers can use regional airports as an alternative airport hub, considering that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga are still under the ECQ and as such, are closed to regular commercial aviation operations.
Secretary Tugade stressed that with the Hub and Spoke model of operations, commercial airlines with operations normally concentrated in traditional airport hubs such as Manila, Mactan, and Clark can now operate in regional airports such as Puerto Princesa, Zamboanga, General Santos, Laguindingan, among others, subject to their aircraft compatibility and configuration.
During the meeting with DOTr’s Air Sector, Secretary Tugade gave instructions for the crafting of a meet and discuss strategy moving forward regarding the implementation of the Hub and Spoke model.
“We want to operationalize this approach before the end of next week, but of course without compromising health and safety protocols set by the IATF and the Department of Health. Pag-iisipan namin kung paano ito maisasagawa ng maayos at mabilis,” Secretary Tugade said.