NOTE: THIS STORY WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN THE BOHOL CHRONICLE’S SUNDAY PRINT EDITION.
Gov. Arthur Yap wants the three airline companies to resume regular domestic flights for cheaper fare in a move seen as calibrating the restart of Bohol’s economy that essentially relies on tourism.
Being calculated, the Bohol Panglao International Airport (BPIA) will be reopened to domestic flights but limited yet to the locally stranded individual (LSI), overseas Filipino worker (OFW) and authorized person outside residence (APOR).
Many have regarded this as an action, too, of the governor on the common complaint, especially from the LSIs and OFWs, against the current costly plane fare amid the economic hardship due to the pandemic.
At present, only sweeper and chartered flights are allowed to fly in and out of Bohol, but they reportedly cannot accommodate the number of passengers, not to mention the more expensive fare.
Yap requested the three commercial airlines in a letter signed by Provincial Administrator Kathyrin Fe Pioquinto on the governor’s behalf.
The letter was addressed to Gilbert Santa Maria, president and chief operating officer of the Philippine Airlines; Ricardo Isla, chief executive officer, AirAsia Philippines; and Lance Gokongwei, president and chief executive officer, Cebu Pacific Air.
The transporting public has been clamoring for the reopening of regular domestic flights at the BPIA.
Yap would want the regular domestic flights back also following consultation with the management of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, which presently operates the Panglao airport.
He specifically asked the three airline companies for “a calibrated reopening of commercial domestic flights” at the BPIA.
This is essentially likewise “in furtherance of our earnest desire to slowly reinstate and bring forward the economy of Bohol,” the governor told the airline executives.
However, Yap clarified that the resumed flights shall be limited, for the time being, to transport only LSIs, OFWs and/or returning overseas Filipinos, and APORs.
MINIMUM HEALTH PROTOCOLS
Minimum health protocols shall be strictly implemented such as, but not limited to, social distancing, wearing of face mask and shield as well as proper disinfection or sanitation.
Also, all passengers shall be required to secure all necessary clearances and documentary requisites before allowed to board the plane bound for Bohol.
Further, prior coordination with the Bohol Inter-Agency Task Force (BIATF) shall have been undertaken before any passenger is allowed entry to the province.
This is to ensure that all pertinent national IATF and BIATF policies, rules, regulations and issuances are faithfully observed and complied.
Yap said it is equally necessary for prior coordination between the LSIs, OFWs and APORs and their receiving LGUs.
The governor is awaiting positive responses from the three airlines, which had regular domestic operations at the Panglao airport before the COVID-19 plagued the country.
He had earlier said Bohol’s economy and tourism ought to reopen even gradually yet decisively.
Bohol government’s decision to resume regular domestic flights came on the heels of the successful first hybrid Philippine Travel Exchange PhiTEX (2020) hosted by the province on Panglao island.
As they were leaving Bohol last weekend, the major trade travel event in pandemic time already generated close to P17 million in bookings, according to a top national tourism official.
Government leaders, industry keyplayers agreed that tourism-based economic reopening, how gradual it can be, is a matter of resolute decision with caution and care.
Other stakeholders believed that in keeping enhanced the different capacities containing the COVID-19 threat and faithfully complying with the protocols, Bohol cannot remain scared. (with report from Ven rebo Arigo)