Davao City eyes 1,000-bed holding areas, COVID-19 lab for air passengers

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 4 Aug) – The City Government of Davao plans to open more holding facilities with 1,000 beds at the Davao International Airport (DIA) and a separate laboratory equipped with a reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), devoted solely for the testing of arriving air passengers, Mayor Sara Duterte said.

DPWH-Davao is building 20 mega tents at the location of the existing airport along C.P. Garcia Highway in Davao City as holding areas for arriving air passengers. Photo courtesy of DPWH-Davao

Duterte said during her live interview over Davao City Disaster Radio (DCDR 87.5) that the local government needs to increase the capacity of its holding facilities to be able to open more flights going to and from the city.

She said she wants full operations of regular commercial flights to resume.

“That’s the target – 1,000 beds – because we also want to allow more flights in Davao City. Why do we need more flights to Davao City? [It’s] because we want to go back to full operations of our airport as before, subject to travel restrictions being imposed by the national government and other countries around the world,” the mayor said.

But she added that local government is constrained to open commercial flights since its existing holding areas can only do so much to accommodate the possible influx of air passengers who need to get swabbed, and wait for negative RT-PCR test result in the airport for up to a day before they are allowed to proceed home for a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

The local government of Davao required all inbound passengers to present negative RT-PCR test results issued within 48 hours from scheduled departure upon check-in at the airport of origin, and readjusted it to 72 hours, and later struck it out as a requirement for Davao-bound passengers after several complaints on the rigidity of the previous requirement

But effective July 22, all passengers would be swabbed at the DIA, at the expense of the local government, and would not be allowed to leave unless negative test results come out within 24 hours.

Duterte said international flights remain unavailable at DIA.

The Cathay Dragon extended suspension of its Davao-Hong Kong-Davao flight until October 23; XiamenAir and Cebu Pacific said they would decide on the fate of their Davao-Quanzhou-Davao and Davao-Singapore-Davao flights, respectively, “as soon as the international flight restrictions in DIA are lifted”; Garuda Indonesia’s Davao-Manado-Davao flight is scheduled to resume between October and December; Qatar Airways’s Davao-Qatar-Davao flight is suspended until October 31; and SilkAir’s Davao-Singapore-Davao is also suspended until this month.

“We want the airlines to understand that as much as we want to open more flights going to Davao International Airport, but unfortunately, right now we are short of our target of 1,000 beds as our holding facilities for plane passengers because we want to catch the positive [cases] right after they land here so that they can no longer immerse in the communities, and send all the rest to home quarantine,” Duterte said.

The Department of Public Works and Highways-Davao is building 20 air-conditioned mega-tents at 10 rooms per tent, with individual toilets and can accommodate up to 200 persons, in a one-hectare vacant lot at the location of the existing airport along C.P. Garcia Highway.

The agency is also constructing a holding facility at the old terminal, located just across the existing terminal, which can house 100 passengers. The 40-year-old terminal was bombed in 2003 that killed 22 people and wounded 155 others.

The mayor said the donor expressed the interest to donate RT-PCR, materials, and other equipment for another laboratory to increase the testing capacity of the city to catch COVID-19 positives at the airport.

“This is initiated by the Department of Tourism. That is also the reason that it will be intended for the Davao International Airport because it is in the interest of the tourism industry to get the airport fully operational,” Duterte said.

She said she asked the Southern Philippines Medical Center to manage the new laboratory. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)