PH airports to defer charging local airlines for a year due to coronavirus

MANILA, Philippines – Aviation officials announced on Monday, March 9, that payment of charges for takeoff, landing, and parking will be deferred for local airlines, as the novel coronavirus cripples the industry.

In a press briefing on Monday, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director General Jim Sydiongco said the payment will be deferred for one year.

"We have considered the deferring [of] payment [for] landing and parking while the impact of COVID-19 is present, or even up to a year. Deferment or payable after one year," Sydiongco said, referring to the disease caused by the virus.

"Our timeline is, we look at it up to a point of a year of deferment, and payment after one year," he added.

Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal clarified that the announcement does not mean waiver of fees. Guidelines will be released on the matter.

Monreal added that recovery is seen to slowly build up after the COVID-19 threat wanes.

"Kahit naman wala nang COVID-19, siyempre ang confidence kasi ng traveling public will still slowly go back. So kailangan natin tantiyahin kung kailan babalik at kailan katagal," he said.

(Even if the threat of COVID-19 is no longer there, of course the confidence of the traveling public will still slowly go back. So we need to consider when the demand will go up and when.)

The move would cause at least P58 million worth of deferred payments to the government per month, solely coming from the main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

"We're seeing around P58 million a month in terms of expenses that cover takeoff and landing, parking, and tracking fees here in NAIA," Monreal said.

Despite that, Monreal explained that airports will be able to survive the deferment of fees, as it only covers local airlines.

"Meron po kaming recovery fund so we can still survive. Kasi 'di naman lahat, so we're just deferring payments for landing, takeoff, and parking. Mga terminal fee, babayad pa rin sila. So may portion pa rin to keep us afloat," he said.

(We still have a recovery fund so we can still survive. The deferment isn't for everything, just deferring payments for landing, takeoff, and parking. Terminal fees will still be paid. So there's still a portion that will keep us afloat.)

Sydiongco said regional airports have suffered from a 20% to 30% decrease in passengers, while Monreal said NAIA has seen around a 30% drop in passengers or about 476,000 passengers, mostly foreigners.

Monreal hopes local carriers will use their aircraft slots to boost local tourism.

The airline industry has taken a huge hit because of the virus, with flag carrier Philippine Airlines terminating some 300 employees due to losses.

As of Monday, the Philippines has had 10 confirmed cases of the virus. Of the total, 7 are confined, 2 have recovered, while a Chinese tourist died

President Rodrigo Duterte declared a state of public health emergency on Monday. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

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