PAL may suspend flights to Boracay

By Louella Desiderio with Catherine Talavera | The Philippine Star

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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