By Arjay L. Balinbin and
Gillian M. Cortez, Reporters
AIRPORTS on the main Philippine island of Luzon will close their doors to inbound and outbound international flights starting March 20 as part of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s lockdown order to contain a novel coronavirus outbreak, the Transportation department said on Tuesday.
Travelers including overseas Filipino workers planning to leave or enter the Philippines through Luzon must do so within the next 72 hours from midnight of March 17, Transportation Undersecretary Raul del Rosario told a news briefing.
“After 72 hours they will have to stay here,” he said in Filipino. “They won’t have options any more because all domestic and international flights will have been canceled.”
Affected airports are the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila, Clark International Airport in Pampanga and the Puerto Princesa Airport in Palawan province.
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has killed at least 12 people and sickened 175 others in the Philippines, according to the Health department. Worldwide, the virus has killed more than 7,000 people and infected about 183,000 more, mostly in China.
Aside from suspending transportation and regulating food and health services, home quarantine will also be enforced in all households under a stricter “enhanced community quarantine,” according to a copy of a memo signed by Executive Secretary Salvador C. Medialdea on March 16.
Mr. del Rosario said outbound international flights now are limited to those that will ferry foreigners who might get stuck in the Philippines.
The agency later issued a statement saying Filipinos may also choose to leave during the 72-hour grace period.
Under the enhanced community quarantine, international passengers on their way to Luzon now would be allowed to enter, subject to quarantine procedures.
In a separate advisory, the agency said only one person per household may go outside to buy basic goods. They may use their cars to do so.
Media vehicles and journalists may also travel around Luzon as long as they have a special pass issued by the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Under the Luzon-wide lockdown that took effect on March 17 until midnight of April 13, only establishments providing and producing basic goods and services will remain open.
These include public markets, supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, hospitals, medical clinics, pharmacies and drugstores, food preparation and delivery services and water-refilling stations.
Also allowed to operate are manufacturing and processing plants for basic food products and medicines, banks, money transfer services, power, energy, water and telecommunication supplies and facilities.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Alexei B. Nograles told a separate briefing workers exempted from the ban must have their IDs and certificates with them in case they are checked by police.
Also yesterday, the presidential palace said Army trucks were sent out yesterday to ferry stranded passengers, mostly health workers and other employees exempted from the ban, on their way to work.
The Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) had also spoken with bus companies, who sent out their buses marked with the MMDA logo to take passengers exempted from the home quarantine to work, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in an e-mailed statement.
Another bus company had offered to transport to and from the airport outbound passengers leaving the country and inbound passengers before the 72-hour grace period expires, he said.
“We commend these bus companies for their bayanihan spirit,” Mr. Panelo said. “Everyone is called upon to rise to the challenges of this dangerous and extremely difficult phase of our history as a nation.”
“The palace will continue to asses the evolving health crisis to give the appropriate response to any problematic situation during this period,” Mr. Panelo said.