The Daily Manila Shimbun


Local flights not required anymore to reserve isolation area for COVID-19 patients – Palace

November 20, 2020

Domestic flights are no longer mandated to reserve a portion of the aircraft cabin as an isolation area for coronavirus suspected or ill passengers on board, Malacanang said on Friday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases removed this requirement during its meeting on Thursday.

"The IATF decision is based on the grounds that guidelines were issued based on available information at the time, and that more information is now available on how COVID-19 is transmitted in closed settings," he said.

Roque, also the spokesman of the IATF, said there are more improved health protocols from boarding to landing to use of high efficiency particulate air filters.

"It was also pointed out that domestic flights are of short duration only generally not exceeding 1.5 hours," he said.

The removal of this requirement will not contravene the World Health Organization and International Civil Aviation Organization guidelines and protocols, Roque said.

The IATF approved the removal of such requirement upon the recommendation of the Department of Transportation and CAAP with the concurrence of the Department of Health. The Department of Transportation will issue the necessary amendatory guidelines.

The IATF also directed all local government units to relax health entry protocols imposed upon airline crew layovers/positioning due to emergency situations, such as typhoons, volcanic activities, diversions and emergency landings, other similar unforeseen and time-sensitive evacuations.

The relaxation of health entry protocols could be by exempting such instances from their respective test-upon-arrival requirement, and permitting said airline crew to temporarily billet in accommodation establishments under a "bubble" concept as supervised by the LGUs.

"For this purpose, the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) is instructed to coordinate with all LGUs to align their health entry protocols for this limited purpose. The CAAP is likewise instructed to supervise and police the implementation of these activities," IATF Resolution No. 84 read.

Based on the recommendation of the DOTr and CAAP, the IATF also authorized the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority to set up a corporate jet flight maintenance and crew layover hub at the Subic Special Economic and Freeport Zone under a strict "bubble" concept, without prejudice to visa or work permit requirements as imposed by applicable laws. Celerina Monte/DMS