AIR TRAVEL regulators said they will defer collection of take-off, landing and parking fees from Philippine carriers as a form of relief from the coronavirus outbreak.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said the action was taken on the order of Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, adding that collections could be deferred for “over a year.”

Tinitingnan natin kung paano sila makaka-recover (We have been studying how airlines can recover), and that’s why we’re talking about over a year of deferment and over a year of payment,” CAAP Director General Jim C. Sydiongco said at a briefing in Pasay City.

MIAA General Manager Ed V. Monreal said: “We’re seeing about P58 million a month in terms of expenses that will cover take-off, landing, parking at NAIA (Ninoy Aquino International Airport). Deferred payment lang po muna ang ie-extend natin (We will offer them deferred payment)” while the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) is affecting their operations.

Mr. Monreal added: “Mayroon kaming scheme na ipapatupad. Magkakaroon kami ng time to revisit and evaluate on how we can recover (We are studying what scheme to implement. We will have time to review how we can recover).”

Philippine carriers have suspended flights to China, Hong Kong, Macau, and parts of South Korea due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Mr. Monreal said the impact on passenger volumes in February was “bumaba po tayo ng almost 476 thousand passengers sa ating paliparan, that consist of arrival and departure, domestic and iternational. Mas marami ang international drop ng mga pasahero (We recorded a decline of about 476,000 passengers using the airport, both arrivals and departures, with the drop more pronounced in international traffic).”

Last month, the Air Carriers Association of the Philippines, Inc. said it was expecting to issue about P3 billion worth of ticket refunds in the next two months after the Philippine travel ban on China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

The Philippines itself has had six COVID-19 infections, half of which were confirmed last week. Before that, it had not reported any new cases for weeks.

Earlier, three Chinese visitors were infected with the virus — one of whom died. The other two have since recovered and left the country.

The Department of Health on Saturday raised the country’s alert level to Code Red sublevel 1, as health authorities “prepare for a possible increase in suspected and confirmed cases,” according to Health Secretary Francisco T. Duque III. — Arjay L. Balinbin