PAL may sus­pend flights to Bo­ra­cay.

The Philippine Star - - FRONT PAGE - By LOUELLA DESIDERIO – With Cather­ine Talav­era

Flag car­rier Philip­pine Air­lines (PAL) may sus­pend flights to Cat­i­clan (Bo­ra­cay) should the gov­ern­ment de­cide to de­clare a state of calamity in the pop­u­lar tourist des­ti­na­tion.

“The mo­ment the gov­ern­ment makes a pro­nounce­ment re­gard­ing the Bo­ra­cay is­sue, which may tem­po­rar­ily af­fect flights within a spec­i­fied pe­riod, PAL will make the nec­es­sary an­nounce­ments to guide pas­sen­gers with con­firmed bookings within such pe­riod. We are on standby for such an of­fi­cial dec­la­ra­tion,” PAL spokesper­son Cielo Vil­laluna said in a text mes­sage yes­ter­day.

She said PAL would pro­vide in­for­ma­tion to guide pas­sen­gers with con­firmed bookings on what cour­ses of ac­tion are avail­able to them.

Pas­sen­gers of can­celled flights would be given op­tions to ei­ther re­book, reroute or re­fund with­out charges or penal­ties.

Ear­lier, Pres­i­dent Duterte said he was look­ing to de­clare a state of calamity in the worl­drenowned is­land re­sort given is­sues of public in­ter­est, health and safety.

Many re­sort own­ers in the is­land have also failed to com­ply with en­vi­ron­men­tal re­quire­ments.

Ear­lier this year, PAL was cer­ti­fied as a four-star air­line by in­ter­na­tional air trans­port rat­ing or­ga­ni­za­tion Sky­trax.

Fol­low­ing the four-star rat­ing, the car­rier is look­ing to im­prove its ser­vices, up­grade its fleet as well as ex­pand routes be­ing served.

The car­rier is aim­ing to achieve a five-star rat­ing by 2020.

Wait­ing for dec­la­ra­tion

The De­part­ment of Tourism (DOT) is wait­ing for Duterte to sign the state of calamity dec­la­ra­tion for Bo­ra­cay is­land be­fore it can make any an­nounce­ment re­gard­ing the re­duc­tion of flights.

“Just wait for the an­nounce­ment of the Pres­i­dent any­time on the clo­sure of Bo­ra­cay,” Tourism Sec­re­tary Wanda Teo told The STAR.

DOT As­sis­tant Sec­re­tary and spokesper­son Fred­er­ick Ale­gre told The STAR that the DOT is await­ing the sign­ing of the state of calamity by Duterte be­cause the clo­sure of Bo­ra­cay will only be im­ple­mented af­ter a state of calamity has been de­clared.

Ale­gre added that the DOT can­not give any or­ders to air car­ri­ers on the re­duc­tion of flights un­til the state of calamity or­der has been signed.

He also clar­i­fied that the DOT is rec­om­mend­ing for flights to Kal­ibo and Cat­i­clan to be re­duced and not to­tally can­celled.

“The flights to Kal­ibo and Cat­i­clan will be re­duced but not nec­es­sar­ily can­celled be­cause some take that air­port to go some­where else not just Bo­ra­cay,” Ale­gre said, adding that the sign­ing of the state of calamity dec­la­ra­tion de­pends on the de­ci­sion of the Pres­i­dent.

“Mala­cañang had just as­signed the in­ter­a­gency task force to sub­mit the find­ings and rec­comen­da­tions,” Ale­gre said.

In an in­ter­a­gency meet­ing yes­ter­day, En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary Roy Ci­matu an­nounced the in­ter­gancy task force rec­om­mended the to­tal clo­sure of Bo­ra­cay as a tourist des­ti­na­tion.

Ci­matu said this will be ef­fec­tive one month af­ter the state of calamity dec­la­ra­tion.

Mean­while, Tourism Congress of the Philip­pines (TCP) pres­i­dent Jojo Cle­mente said pri­vate sec­tor stake­hold­ers, par­tic­u­larly the non-air­line sec­tor, can­not act on the pos­si­ble can­cel­la­tion of flights to Bo­ra­cay as it has not re­ceived for­mal no­tice from the DOT.

“As much as we want to be proac­tive about this, we can­not be­cause we do not pos­sess (suf­fi­cient) in­for­ma­tion… to take ac­tion,” Cle­mente said.

“What is hap­pen­ing now is that we are up in the air. There is so much in­for­ma­tion com­ing up from so many sources that the stake­hold­ers of Bo­ra­cay, down to the re­sorts, the tour op­er­a­tors, we’re all con­fused as to what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” he added.

While there is no of­fi­cial no­tice from the DOT to can­cel flights, Cle­mente said air car­ri­ers should wait for for­mal or­ders be­fore an­nounc­ing the sus­pen­sion of flights to the public as it will create con­fu­sion.

“The pru­dent thing to do is to wait for an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment, un­less an of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment was made to them, which other sec­tors of the pri­vate sec­tor are not aware of,” Cle­mente said,

More­over, Cle­mente said the can­cel­la­tion of flights should de­pend on or­ders to par­tially or to­tally close the is­land.

“If there is a to­tal clo­sure of Bo­ra­cay, then can­celling flights would make sense, es­pe­cially if we are talk­ing about Cat­i­clan. But if it is only a par­tial clo­sure, then I would like to think that the air­lines would also have a par­tial sched­ule, or at least a scaled down sched­ule,” he said.

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