Despite the beginnings of a vaccination drive in key areas of the country, the Philippines still reels from a renewed rise of added cases of COVID-19 infection. Also alarming is the increasing number of instances that a local COVID case is that of a new mutated strain, especially from overseas like the UK, or South Africa and elsewhere. With Metro Manila remaining the epicenter of the global pandemic’s presence in the country, the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) has decided to take steps to cut down on travellers arriving by air through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), starting this Thursday.
According to the Philippine Star, as of March 18, the amount of overseas arrivals via airlines on NAIA will be capped at only 1,500 a day, per day for a whole month. This was first announced by the CAB back in Tuesday, March 16, with a warning that international airlines with flights arriving in Manila could be penalized if they surpass the daily cap. The 1,500 limit applies to both incoming balikbayan Filipinos as well as foreigners, with the latter not being discriminated by race. The aviation regulators have not given reason for capping arrivals.
The imposition of a limit in daily overseas air arrivals comes about five months since the first easing of flight restrictions at airports across the country, especially NAIA which serves as the gateway to Manila. It is also in line with ground-based restrictions being enacted by Metro Manila LGUs and other concerned government agencies, in the hope of reining in the new COVID upsurge which threatens to put receiving hospitals back in critical patient levels like last year. Already localized community lockdowns have been put in effect, along with attempts to make curfew hours uniform.
While the national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) announced its intention to comply, they did advise that their March 18 flights will arrive at NAIA as scheduled. They will only begin limiting passengers come Friday and onward, until the month-long daily cap ends April 18.
Image courtesy of Rappler