Local airlines are asking the government to relax some rules for vaccinated Filipinos who are traveling by air to help the industry recover from billions of pesos in lost revenues as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The companies sought the help of presidential adviser for entrepreneurship, Joey Concepcion, to bring forward their concerns and to lobby for increased mobility among the vaccinated.
“The aviation industry is on the brink of collapse. If we don’t help the airline industry now, we might face a huge problem on how to travel in the future," he said.
“For these airline companies to survive, there has to be a sustainable number of passengers, especially for the tourism industry,” Concepcion said.
He called on the government to implement a shorter quarantine period for fully vaccinated travelers from North America to help the ailing aviation sector.
“With the Christmas season fast approaching, it’s now high time for the government to consider a shorter quarantine for fully vaccinated travelers from other countries, especially North America,” he said, saying this would make it easier for Filipinos to include a home visit in their travel plans.
Concepcion and the stakeholders of the airline industry met with Dr. Edsel Salvana, one of the advisers of the Department of Health, to air their concerns over the strict policies of both the national and local governments that discourage travelers from flying to various parts of the country and abroad.
Philippine Airlines (PAL), which filed for bankruptcy protection in New York earlier this month, proposed a new protocol to reduce risk and costs to passengers on international flights.
Under the proposal, passengers will be tested 72 hours before departure and will undergo quarantine upon arrival and take an RT-PCR test on the third day. If the result is negative, they can go out of the quarantine facility on the fifth day and continue home quarantine.
Based on the data presented, testing before departure helps reduce the positivity rate and risk. The proposal would also enable passengers to save as much as P25,000 aside from enjoying a more comfortable quarantine in the comfort of their own homes.
The airlines also asked the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) to consider placing North America on the list of “green” countries as this is the biggest market for local airlines.
PAL said it earned $1 billion from the North American market before the pandemic.
Cebu Pacific, through its Vice President for Cargo Alex Reyes, also called on the IATF to release guidelines to allow fully vaccinated Filipinos to travel domestically to help restart tourism and economic activities.
“They only must present a vaccination card or a DICT vaccination certificate as the sole requirement,” Reyes said.
AirAsia Chief Executive Ricky Isla proposed the use of antigen testing if testing will still be required as it is more convenient and cheaper. The proposal is similar to the “Bakuna Bubble” being pushed by Concepcion.
Under the Bakuna Bubble, COVID-19 guidelines are eased for fully vaccinated individuals to help boost the economy and protect the employment of many Filipinos. Concepcion has been pushing for safer reopening of the economy specially for the vaccinated.
The hotel industry, represented by Philippine Hotel Owners Association Executive Director Arthur Lopez, asked the government to revisit the number of passengers who are allowed to come in as they can handle the influx of tourists once the tourism industry is opened.
The bus industry, for its part, was supportive of the call to allow intra/inter-provincial travel for vaccinated individuals, saying it would help revive the sector that has been heavily affected by lockdowns.
Keeping the airline industry healthy is also vital to the survival of hotels, travel agents and operators, and tourism-related businesses, most of them small and medium enterprises that are scattered all over the island nation, Concepcion said.