By Alexandria San Juan
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) said it will expand the international aviation gateways in the country to include airports in Clark, Cebu, and Davao once the capital region shifts to general community quarantine (GCQ) next month.
In a meeting with President Duterte aired on Thursday night (May 28), Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade explained that the move aims to decongest terminals at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila and transfer the load to other provinces and regions.
“We are an archipelago, which is why it is imperative that we spread the aviation centrum of operations to other parts of the country, and other parts of the region,” Tugade said.
Apart from the mentioned city airports, Tugade added that they are looking into further expanding the international gateways gradually.
“We are looking into increasing the international gateways every one or two weeks to include airports in Zamboanga, Iloilo, Bacolod, and Bohol,” he said.
Airport testing lab
As the expansion of the international aviation gateways is in place, the transportation chief said they are also establishing COVID-19 testing laboratories at the airports to ensure that passengers coming in the country are free of the disease.
“May matatapos nang testing laboratory sa Clark at sa Cebu. Mahalaga ito kapag nagawa, kasi kung darating ‘yung mga pasahero from international primary gateways, kailangan nandoon /yung mga testing facilities (Testing laboratories in Clark and Cebu are nearly done. This is very important so when passengers from international primary gateways arrive, there should be testing facilities at the airport),” he said.
According to Tugade, the Department has already tied up with the Department of Health and the Philippine Red Cross to fast-track the accreditation of the testing laboratories.
“While we put up the testing laboratories, there are already accredited hospitals that can do the testing in Clark and Cebu. Kung wala pa, pwede munang gamitin ang mga paliparan (If they are not ready, those in the airports may be used first),” he added.
Domestic air ops allowed under GCQ
Meanwhile, Tugade also announced that it will allow domestic air operations from GCQ to GCQ areas not only for mobility but also to boost “domestic tourism.”
“We are allowing to resume domestic air operations in areas placed under GCQ. We will not limit the operations in Central Luzon, we will also allow Visayas and Mindanao,” he added.
Tugade also said that they will start implementing the hub-and-spoke model in airlines beginning June 1 where major air carriers can use regional airports as an alternative airport hub “to spread aviation potentials and to promote not only domestic mobility, but more importantly our domestic tourism.”
President Duterte approved on Thursday the transition of Metro Manila and other regions from modified enhanced community quarantine to a more relaxed GCQ starting June 1, after almost three months of strict lockdown which mandated the shutdown of all modes of public transportation.