DOH Region 10 to ask PAF for transport of vaccines if commercial flight cancellations continue

CAGAYAN DE ORO (MindaNews /14 January) – The Department of Health (DOH) Northern Mindanao office will seek the assistance of the Philippine Air Force in ferrying much-needed vaccines from Manila to Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental if the cancellations of commercial flights continue due to COVID-19. 

Dr. Jose Llacuna Jr., DOH Northern Mindanao director, said they still have enough supply of vaccines until the end of the month but will seek PAF’s assistance if the flight cancellations continue.

From January 1 to 13, a total of 120 flights to and from the Laguindingan Airport and Ozamiz City were cancelled due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, initially noted in Metro Manila. 

Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

A report by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to the National Economic Development Authority  (NEDA) regional office here said 53 inbound flights of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific to the Laguindingan Airport and another 53 outbound flights were cancelled from January 1 to 13 this year. 

NEDA 10 director Mylah Faye Aurora Cariño said the CAAP report did not say how many passengers were affected by the cancelled flights.

At the Ozamiz airport, Cariño said 14 incoming and outgoing flights of Cebu Pacific and PAL Express were cancelled from January 5 to 13.

Cariño said the cancellation of flights affected 31 passengers from the PAL Express in Ozamiz City. She said the CAAP made no mention of how many passengers of Cebu Pacific were affected.

Among the reasons cited in the report were the cases of COVID-19 infections among the staff of Philippine Air Lines and Cebu Pacific.

But the Philippine Airlines in its Advisory 234 on the cancellation of several flights from January 8 to 16 noted that with the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, “we are receiving more calls from passengers who need to rebook or cancel their flights because they have tested positive or are in precautionary isolation.” It admitted that “at the same time, many of our frontline team members are unable to report for work,” adding they are “facing challenges in sustaining our full regular operations and ensuring prompt service for all our customers.

“We are taking the precaution of cancelling a number of domestic and international flights, even as our PAL teams do all possible to process all passenger requests and relieve the longer call waiting times and ticket office queues.  We request your kind understanding and cooperation as we cope with these serious but temporary challenges,” PAL said. 

On January 6, Cebu Pacific said it was reviewing its network schedule and was closely monitoring its staff complement to avoid last minute cancellations due to unavailability of crew and ground personnel

CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio, told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) on January 7 that a notice to airmen (NOTAM) was issued effective midnight of January 6 until midnight of January 10.”

“This NOTAM reduces the hourly commercial flight arrival at the NAIA to 14 domestic and international flights,” he said.

At the press briefing here on Wednesday, Cariño said “it’s too early to tell but if this (flight cancellation) continues it would impact the economy in northern Mindanao,” 

Arnel Agabe, regional director of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) said it would be up to the local government of Cagayan de Oro if it would impose travel restrictions into the city from Manila.

But Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno said he is not inclined to impose travel restrictions aside from those required by CAAP and the airlines.

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Management of  Emerging Infectious Diseases placed Cagayan de Oro was under the stricter Alert Level 3 from January 14 to 31 after a spike of COVID-19 cases was detected in the past two weeks.

The City Health Office logged 77 COVID-19 cases last January 11, the highest recorded in a single day this year.

CHO medical officer Dr. Ted Yu blamed travels and parties during the Christmas season for the spike of the coronavirus in the city.

A returning overseas worker from Kenya who is a resident of Iligan City was diagnosed as an Omicron case but the DOH said he had recovered before returning to the region.  (Froilan Gallardo / MindaNews)