Credit to Author: Catherine S. Valente, TMT| Date: Wed, 01 Jul 2020 03:18:36 +0000
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday ordered the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to remove some restaurants at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to provide more seats for stranded passengers amid the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic in the country.
In his public address aired over state-run PTV-4 late Tuesday night, Duterte lamented the lack of seats for passengers at NAIA when their flights were delayed.
The President issued the directive to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade after he saw pictures of stranded travelers staying in waiting sheds and sidewalks near the airport.
“I’d like to call the attention of Secretary Tugade. Art. ‘Yang airport na ‘yan, kung sinong nag-design niyan g***. Sabihin mo sa kanya. Walang upuan. Iilan lang ang upuan. Pagka nagpa — ang mga flights nagpatong, ‘yung iba nakatindig sa… And what’s really worse is that mayroong restaurant diyan sa labas na malaki (That airport, whoever designed that is an ****. Tell him, ‘There are no seats.’ There are only few seats. If flights pile up, passengers are…What’s really worse is that there’s a big restaurant outside),” Duterte said.
“‘Di paalisin mo ‘yung restaurant lagyan mo ng upuan kasi ‘yung iba mga mayroong mga bata, buntis, walang upuan (Remove that restaurant, fill it with seats because other passengers are kids and pregnant women with nothing to seat on),” he added.
Duterte also ordered Tugade to terminate contracts with restaurant owners so waiting passengers could sit inside the airport.
“Art, lagyan mo ng silya lahat ‘yan. Iyang restaurant diyan kung ma-terminate mo contracts, terminate them because I need them to sit the passengers waiting. Nandiyan lahat eh,” he said.
The transportation department drew flak as photos and videos of stranded passengers outside the NAIA Terminal 3 circulated spread online.
Thousands of locally stranded individuals (LSI) have been camping near NAIA in hopes of getting flights amid the limited air travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Manila International Airport Authority has reminded the public not to proceed to the airport unless there was a confirmed flight.
Meanwhile, Duterte ordered Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to gather all LSIs, especially those camping near the NAIA, and provide them with food and accommodation.
The President said he would pay for the cost of the billeting and food of the LSIs.
“I would like to remind si General Año to gather all na naghihintay ng walang matulugan, matirhan, at nandiyan sa labas ng NAIA (everyone waiting, nowhere to sleep and to stay in, and staying outside NAIA), you will be transported to a place. I will pay, just bill me, pati pagkain (including the food),” Duterte said.
“Maghanap lang ng ‘yung mga karenderya-karenderya diyan kasi baka ang Budget magreklamo. Huwag kayong magkain nang mahal-mahal kay hindi panahon na ano ito ngayon (Just look for an eatery so that the Budget Department would not complain. Don’t eat expensive food, because it’s not the time for that). We are in a crisis and let us keep our senses close to the ground,” he added.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said about 6,000 LSIs were expected to be sent back to their hometowns during the first week of July.
LSIs were temporarily transferred to the Villamor Airbase Elementary School and the Philippine State College of Aeronautics while waiting for a bus or plane ride home.
On Monday, the government temporarily suspended the entry of LSIs in at least five areas due to the limited number of quarantine facilities that can accommodate them.
The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases has issued a moratorium on sending home LSIs to Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, and Caraga regions; Cebu Island; and Mactan.
More than 34,000 LSIs have been sent to their respective hometowns through the “Hatid Tulong” program.
The “Balik Probinsya, Bagong Pag-Asa” program has been temporarily suspended to prioritize assisting LSIs in Metro Manila.
To date, the Philippines has recorded 37,514 Covid-19 cases, of whom 1,266 have died while 10,233 have recovered.