MANILA — The Philippine government’s temporary travel ban imposed on mainland China, Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) outbreak has seen a reduction in the number of international and domestic tourists traveling to the country, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said on Wednesday.
In a press briefing in Malacañang, MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal said the ban has reduced the number of international passengers by 16.74 percent or around 300,000 individuals from January 25 to February 17 compared to the same period last year.
The number of domestic passengers was reduced by 3 percent or around 50,000 individuals in the same period, he added.
Monreal was optimistic that the partial lifting of the temporary travel ban on Hong Kong, Macao, and Taiwan would see an increase of international passengers visiting the country.
He, however, admitted that airlines are still having trouble mounting flights because their front-line crew members have to undergo 14-day quarantine procedures prescribed by the Department of Health (DOH).
“Kung ganun po ang proseso na meron pa po silang quarantine — yung mga crew — medyo mahihirapan sila na mag-mount ng flights dito kahit na meron temporary lifting ng mga pasahero papuntang Hong Kong (If that is the process, that crew members have to undergo quarantine, they will have difficulty in mounting flights here despite the partial lifting of the ban,” Monreal said.
He said the airlines are slowly starting to recover after the temporary travel ban was partially lifted.
Full recovery, he said, will depend on the government’s ability to address Covid-19.
“What we want is definitely back to normal operations,” Monreal said.
Meanwhile, he said Transport Secretary Art Tugade directed airlines to mount more flights to domestic destinations to boost tourism numbers following the expected slowdown of international arrivals.
President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to visit top local destinations to promote domestic tourism amid the Covid-19 threat, the Department of Tourism earlier said.
In 2019, Monreal said Terminals 1 to 4 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) were able to accommodate around 47 million passengers.
To prevent the possible infection, he encouraged the public who have passengers to meet or send-off at the Manila airport terminals to refrain from coming in groups heeding the advice of health experts to avoid crowded places.
“Let us say our goodbyes at home and not go to the airport in groups when meeting a passenger. It is very hard to fight tradition, but in times like this, everyone should look out for their own safety,” he said.
Airport authorities ordered tighter screening measures to all international airports it manages.
NAIA has two new thermal scanners each at Terminals 1, 2 and 3 to better detect passengers with high-grade fever.
Airlines vowed to impose safeguard measures to allay fears of future passengers such as aircraft disinfection, cabin air filtering, and face mask policy requirement for the flights’ front line crew.
On Tuesday, the government announced the partial lifting of the temporary travel ban to allow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to return to work in Hong Kong and Macao — China’s special administrative regions.
However, OFWs will first be required to prepare a “written declaration” stating that they are aware of the risk posed by Covid-19 once they get back to their workplaces.
The temporary travel ban was partially lifted following several requests made by OFWs concerned that they may lose their jobs if they failed to resume work after their vacation leave. (iamigo/sovereignph.com/PNA)