THE Department of Tourism (DoT) said it would arrange sweeper flights for qualified stranded local tourists.

The department made the announcement on Wednesday after the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) approved its request “to undertake necessary measures to charter and fund sweeper flights for qualified stranded local tourists from other regions to the National Capital Region and vice versa.”

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines and budget carriers Cebu Pacific and Philippines AirAsia told BusinessWorld via phone message that they continue to mount sweeper flights for stranded travelers.

“As of 27 April 2020, the DoT Regional Offices nationwide have listed about 2,267 remaining domestic tourists. The DoT assures the public that it will do everything within its mandate to bring qualified stranded local tourists home as it works on mounting sweeper flights from Palawan, Cebu, Siargao and Davao,” the department said in a statement.

It added: “A stranded local tourist may be eligible for the assistance if registered with the DoT Regional Office and has a confirmed return land, air, or sea ticket to his/her home province, city or municipality but was cancelled due to the implementation of the community quarantine.”

The department said it would announce the dates of the departure schedules of the said sweeper flights.

Stranded local tourists will also have to communicate with the nearest DoT Regional Office in their respective locations.

PAL Spokesperson Cielo C. Villaluna said: “We continue to carry out domestic sweeper flights and international special flights to carry stranded foreign nationals to their home countries.”

Philippines AirAsia Head of Communications David F. de Castro said the budget carrier would continue to mount sweeper flights in coordination with requesting government agencies.

For her part, Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said of the IATF-EID’s approval of her department’s request: “This is a positive development that will complement our on-ongoing efforts in the Department to assist qualified stranded local tourists, which include the provision of one-time financial assistance.” — Arjay L. Balinbin