The COVID-19 outbreak has given Metro Manila more nightmares than the obvious ill effects of the disease and the speed of the coronavirus’s transmission. Measures imposed by the government have not only reduced the capacity of public transportation, but also made entry into the National Capital Region a more difficult endeavor. But as the megalopolis’s workforce slowly crawls through police checkpoints at provincial borders, the same cannot be said about the country’s main international gateway.
According to the flight tracker app Flightradar24, no fewer than five flights originating from various cities in mainland China landed at Ninoy Aquino International Airport yesterday—the first day of the monthlong community quarantine. This is amid the ongoing travel ban on foreign nationals from the People’s Republic and its Special Administrative Regions, and the Department of Transportation’s enforced cessation of domestic flights coming in and going out of NAIA.
Although local carriers have suspended services to China, Hong Kong and Macau, these Chinese airlines appear to be brazenly flying in and out of NAIA during the travel ban. In fact, one of the China Southern Airlines flights and both Xiamen Air flights operate daily. Yes, that’s the same Xiamen Air whose pilots botched a landing attempt that closed our airport’s main runway for 36 hours in August 2018.
There was widespread criticism on social media regarding this, but the DOTr was quick to explain the whole thing in a post on its Facebook page:
Ang mga pasaherong sakay ng mga flights galing China na pinapakalat ng ilang malisyoso ay mga FILIPINO PASSENGERS (OFWs, repatriates) na nagdesisyong umuwi na sa Pilipinas, subalit dadaan muna sa STRICT QUARANTINE PROCEDURES bago payagang makapasok.
Ang mga outgoing passengers naman na sakay ng mga eroplanong ’yan pabalik ng CHINA ay mga CHINESE NATIONALS na ginusto na ring bumaik sa kanilang bansa.
We hope this settles the issue, and we hope our government is telling the truth. Otherwise, what’s the use of isolating ourselves in our homes when foreigners can simply pass through our international borders unimpeded?