Northern Mindanao sees 120 canceled flights as COVID-19 downs airline workers

National Economic Development Authority director Mylah Faye Aurora Cariño says Northern Mindanao’s economy would be impacted if the region sees more flight cancellations

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – COVID-19 infections among the staff of Philippine Air Lines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific forced the cancellation of 120 flights at the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental and Ozamiz City since New Year’s Day.

A report by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in Northern Mindanao said the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental logged 53 inbound flights, and another 53 outbound flights of PAL and Cebu Pacific that were canceled from January 1 to January 13.

Mylah Faye Aurora Cariño, NEDA director for Northern Mindanao, said it was unclear how many passengers were affected as a result of the canceled flights based on the CAAP report.

At the Ozamiz Airport, Cariño said, 14 incoming and outgoing flights of Cebu Pacific and PAL Express were canceled from January 5 to January 13.

Cariño said the cancellations of PAL Express flights affected 31 passengers in Ozamiz City. The CAAP report did not state how many Cebu Pacific passengers were affected there.

“It’s too early to tell but if this continues, it would impact on the economy in Northern Mindanao,” Cariño said.

Dr. Jose Llacuna Jr., Department of Health (DOH) regional director, said the Philippine Air Force (PAF) may be asked to step in and help in bringing the much-needed vaccines from Manila to the Laguindingan Airport if the commercial flight cancellations continue.

But Llacuna said the DOH regional office still has enough vaccine supplies until the end of January.

In Cagayan de Oro, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) regional director Arnel Agabe said it would be up to local governments in the region if they would impose stricter restrictions on travelers from Manila given the rising COVID–19 cases and the threat of Omicron variant infections.

Cagayan de Oro Mayor Oscar Moreno said he was not inclined to impose travel restrictions, pointing out that CAAP and the airlines have already put in place measures.

Cagayan de Oro was placed under the stricter Alert Level 3 from January 14 to January 31 due to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 infections in the city. The city has seen its two-week growth rate in COVID-19 cases increasing to over 1,000%.

The City Health Office (CHO) logged 77 new COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, January 11, its highest recorded single-day number of cases so far this year.

Dr. Teodoro Yu Jr., CHO medical officer, said data showed that travelers and those who attended parties and other gatherings during the holidays factored in the surge in new COVID-19 cases in the city. – Rappler.com

Froilan Gallardo is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship

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