THE Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said 16 airports remain closed to commercial flights, while the local governments in charge of 33 others have given their consent for operations, subject to safety rules.

In a statement late Wednesday, CAAP said the 16 airports that are still closed are Calbayog, Camiguin, Catarman2, Catbalogan, Dumaguete, Guiuan, Hilongos, Laaog, Maasin, Puerto Princesa, Roxas City, Tuguegarao, San Vicente, Sanga- Sanga, Siargao, and Surigao.

It said flights to and from the 33 airports that are allowed to operate are required to obtain prior approval from local governments.

The government has allowed travel agencies, tour operators, reservation services and related activities to resume operations at 50% capacity for areas placed under general community quarantine (GCQ) and at 100% capacity for areas placed under the modified GCQ (MGCQ).

The ban on non-essential foreign travel by Filipinos has been lifted starting Oct. 21.

Such moves are a step towards normaling operations, according to Cebu Pacific Air, Inc.

The gradual reopening of travel is expected to fuel business activity, Philippine Airlines said.

Philippine Airlines, operated by PAL Holdings, Inc., carried 16.8 million passengers last year while Cebu Pacific, operated by Cebu Air, Inc., carried 22.5 million passengers. Philippines AirAsia carried 8.55 million passengers in 2019.

Fitch Ratings does not expect airlines to bounce back to their pre-pandemic passenger volume next year because of the continuing spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The forecast is based on the assumption that a COVID-19 vaccine or treatment will not be widely available in 2021. — Arjay L. Balinbin