LAOAG CITY — The Laoag International Airport (LIA) in Ilocos Norte will start accommodating regional flights for Filipinos abroad who are returning home to decongest quarantine facilities in Metro Manila and Pampanga, officials said on Friday.
According to the Ilocos Norte provincial tourism office, 151 returning Filipinos from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, comprised the first batch to arrive at LIA during the trial run on June 12.At least 128 of these passengers were overseas Filipino workers who were assisted by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa), it said.
LIA is the only airport in the province and is considered to be the “northernmost international airport in the country.” It has been a popular charter flight destination for tourists coming from China before the pandemic.
Cipriano Martinez, provincial government consultant, said the management of the country’s flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) had requested the local government to open regional flights in LIA to relieve hotels serving as quarantine facilities in Metro Manila and Clark in Pampanga.
These quarantine facilities were running short of space, with some reaching their maximum capacity, Martinez said in a statement last week.
Arriving Filipinos from abroad would need to undergo quarantine for 14 days upon their arrival in the country, according to a resolution from the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases. The first 10 days, including the swab test on the seventh day, would be spent in hotels.
Ritchelle Lorenzo, cash operations section head of the Mariano Marcos Memorial Hospital, on Friday told the Inquirer that the PAL management and the hospital had partnered for the swab testing of the arriving international flights passengers.
Returning residents landing in Ilocos Norte would have the option to take the “sweeper flights” of PAL back to Metro Manila, or avail of the free transportation to designated drop-off points offered by the Owwa.So far, only the Kuala Lumpur-Laoag route has been approved by the provincial government, said Nikki Pilar, Metro Ilocos Norte Council officer in a separate statement on June 16.
Pilar said the province would be willing to accommodate more international flights in the future, including those coming from the American state of Hawaii.
The provincial government has partnered with several local hotels that are accredited as quarantine facilities in the province. This was to help them recover from pandemic-induced losses, it said.
No date has been set yet for the arrival of the second batch of returning Filipinos at LIA.—JOHN MICHAEL MUGAS
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