The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines (ACAP) is asking Congress for an P8.6-billion government subsidy so its members can survive the coronavirus pandemic.
In a Senate Committee on Public Services online hearing on May 11, ACAP vice chairman Roberto Lim said the association’s proposal to Congress includes P1.3 billion for wage subsidy; P500 million for payment to aviation authorities for navigational charges, landing and takeoff fees, among others; and P6.8 billion for working capital.
ACAP member-airlines comprise the biggest domestic airlines in the Philippines: AirAsia Philippines, Cebu Pacific, Cebgo, Philippine Airlines and PAL Express.
Lim said airline revenues have sunk since flights were suspended to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Extension of the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), which lapses after May 15, would further increase losses, he added.
(Government on May 12 placed Metro Manila, Laguna and Cebu City under a modified enhanced community quarantine, which still limits transportation.)
According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the COVID-19 crisis will slash revenues of the Philippine aviation sector by $4.481 billion and passenger demand by 47% this year compared to 2019.
Lim said regular employees of member carriers number around 25,000, but the figure could reach more than 500,000 if associated entities supporting the aviation sector, as well as hotels and travel agencies are considered.
He noted ACAP airlines are “ready to fly again… on a rolling gradual basis” but that right now there is no consumer confidence for air travel.
Member carriers, he added, project they will be able to resume only 20-30% of their original network in terms of capacity and destination this year due to consumer travel concerns.
And even if community quarantines are relaxed by the national government, Lim said travel to certain airports, such as those considered secondary, may not be allowed by some local government units due to the area’s lack of public health infrastructure to contain any possible infection.
Transportation undersecretary Manuel Antonio Tamayo, during the same hearing, said the department has been meeting with stakeholders for the past several weeks to come up with new guidelines for air travel, regardless of whether an area is under ECQ or general community quarantine.
Tamayo said the guidelines will be compliant with international standards set by IATA and the International Civil Aviation Organization.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and local airlines have also issued their own advisories on new protocols for passengers and staff to prevent further spread of COVID-19.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has re-opened for inbound international flights but only for a month starting May 11. MIAA general manager Ed Monreal said only 400 passengers a day will be allowed at the airports at any given time, with priority being overseas Filipino workers and overseas Filipinos.
Cargo flights and sweeper flights for stranded foreign nationals remain operational.