Mayor Sara asks national gov’t to stop ‘vampire flights’ for returning residents

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 16 July) — The national government should stop sending late-night “sweeper flights” from Metro Manila to Davao City and to advise ahead of time the local government units (LGUs) in the region of the flight schedules of their returning residents to avoid causing inconvenience, City Mayor Sara Duterte said.

Passengers of the Cebu Pacific sweeper flight from Manila on Wednesday went through an initial health screening procedure upon arrival in Davao City. Photo courtesy of City Government of Davao

“In our parlance, we call that ‘bampira’ (vampire) flights because sometimes there were flights that were scheduled to arrive at 3 a.m. We were told suddenly, at midnight, that an airplane was arriving around 3 a.m.,” Duterte said.

During her live interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) on Wednesday, Duterte said she had relayed these concerns to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and Department of Transportation (DOTr).

She said it was cumbersome for the city government, directed to receive all returning passengers, to get a text message late at night from OWWA that a flight was scheduled to land at the Davao International Airport in the wee hours of the morning.

She said that if the practice continued the city could not prepare in advance while the other LGUs in Davao Region could not immediately send buses to fetch their returning residents at the airport.

“We have no problems with that, except that the LGUs would find it difficult since residents would be left at the airports, many of whom would be put in hotels,” she said.

She advised OWWA to schedule regular flights for the returning overseas Filipinos, so that city government personnel who will process arriving residents could prepare and the other LGUs could send buses for their returning residents.

She said proper coordination with the city government and other LGUs could avoid causing inconvenience, particularly on passengers who get stranded at the airport for several hours.

“We asked if they could inform the LGUs in advance because some LGUs are five hours away. If not, have OWWA or DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) prepare the buses, so that upon landing in our city, they can be brought to their respective areas,” she said.

Duterte suggested to Transportation Secretary  Arthur Tugade to require all passengers to present results of the reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests taken not more than 48 hours before departure amid the increasing number of confirmed coronavirus disease cases in the city, many of whom were from Manila and Cebu.

As of July 15, the Department of Health-Davao reported 25 new COVID-19 cases, bringing the total to 843 with 42 deaths and 466 recoveries. Of the total COVID-19 cases, 613 are in Davao City, 81 in Davao del Norte, 32 in Davao del Sur, 59 in Davao de Oro, 53 in Davao Oriental, and five in Davao Occidental.

She said the city government noticed that many of the RT-PCR test results currently required by the national government from returning residents were taken one to two weeks prior to departure.

“Those RT-PCR test results are no longer accepted by our doctors. The doctors would say in that seven days prior  to their arrival, there is a possibility that they are already exposed,” she said.

She said there are two daily flights to the city after travel restrictions were eased. (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)