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Filipinos can fly out of PH until Mar 20

17 March 2020

By The SUN
Thousands of people rushed to NAIA on Mar 15, as the lockdown of Metro Manila started

After a day of flip-flopping on new travel restrictions which resulted in dozens of Filipinos not being able to board their flights this morning, Mar 17, Philippine government officials announced this afternoon that those who want to fly out have until Mar 20 to do so.

This comes as the government started implementing price controls on medicines and food supplies in line with President Rodrigo Duterte’s declaration of a state of calamity in the entire country as part of efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.

As of today, the total confirmed Covid-19 cases in the country had risen to 187, with 45 new cases reported.
Duterte signed Proclamation 929 on Monday, which placed the Philippines in a state of calamity for six months or “unless earlier lifted or extended as circumstances may warrant.”  

He also expanded the community quarantine of Metro Manila to include all of Luzon, which meant all residents staying at home, with just one member being allowed to buy food and other necessities.

Most offices have been closed, as well as malls, while the entire region hunkers down amid fears the spread of the deadly disease is just about to peak.
All public transportation have been halted immediately, while flights in and out of the metropolis will continue only until the first hours of Thursday, Mar. 20. By then, all airports in Luzon, including NAIA and Clark International Airport, will be closed.

Despite a presidential directive that clearly spelled out a 72-hour window for all travelers wishing to depart the Philippines before the month-long lockdown fully takes effect, dozens of Filipinos were stopped from boarding their flights today.

They included several overseas Filipino workers and residents who were not allowed to take their Hong Kong Airlines flight at 6:50am, in the wake of confusion over the effective date of the travel ban.
Filipinos aboard Cathay Pacific's two flights to HK were able to leave 
The mess followed the issuance of an advisory by the Department of Transportation close to midnight last night, that said all Filipinos would not be allowed to fly out of the country starting today, instead of Thursday.

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Among those who were unable to take the HKA’s only daily flight from Manila was Joanne, who along with about 20 family members had rushed to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s terminal 1 before midnight last night, anxious to get back to HK.

She said she saw all Filipino passengers being turned away at the immigration counters, until airline staff halted the issuance of boarding passes to them altogether after consulting with immigration officers.

“Apparently the Facebook post of DOTr on Mar 16, 11:25pm was the basis of their directives which we didn’t know of until we learned it from the airline ground staff,” said Joanne.

All the Filipino passengers left the airport, confused between what they heard from the President’s speech and what the DOTr had posted on Facebook. To compound the problem, they all faced a problem going back home because no public transportation was available.

What made the experience even more difficult to take for the HKA passengers was the realization that Filipinos who took flights to Hong Kong aboard other airlines were able to leave without a problem.

These included two direct Cathay Pacific flights, and one Eva Air flight that stopped over in Taipei, before heading to Hong Kong.

In Joanne’s case, the failure to take the flight also meant her daughter missing out on taking a crucial exam, while she and the rest of her family scramble to book seats on Hong Kong-bound flights that last time she checked, are already full until Mar 19.

And, even if they do get on a flight to Hong Kong on the 19th, it would mean another problem, because that is when the city they call home will start enforcing a 14-day  home quarantine for all passengers arriving from overseas.

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