CEBU CITY – With the consensus to retain the swab-upon-arrival policy for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) and returning overseas Filipinos (ROFs), the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) has resumed accepting international flights.
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia, in an interview on Tuesday, said stakeholders have agreed that the “Provincial Board (PB) ordinance is the recognized local law of the land unless otherwise declared ultra vires (beyond the powers).”
“They all agreed that they would all have to follow the PB ordinance because they do not want to violate the law,” she added.
The governor met with government and private stakeholders on Monday to discuss the prevailing guidelines and protocols for ROFs and OFWs.
In a separate interview, Andrew Harrison, chief executive advisor of the GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp., said the airport resumed accommodating flights from abroad on Sunday after Malacañang diverted all international flights to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for one week starting on May 29.
“The number of passengers arriving will be in line with the current cap, which is also tied to the number of available hotel rooms. Our OFWs and ROFs are classified as heroes of the nation, so we want to do anything to make their return as seamless as possible,” Harrison said.
Currently, Cebu has a 300 daily cap on international arrivals but stakeholders are looking at requesting the Civil Aeronautics Board to allow more flights from abroad to land at the MCIA.
During the meeting with airport and hotel stakeholders, Garcia said Cebu has increased its hotel room capacity to accommodate OFWs and ROFs waiting for their swab test results after the Department the Tourism (DOT) approved local hotels to serve as leisure and quarantine facilities.
“Upon proper inspection between the DOT and the DOH, within the week, we might expand to over 5,000 rooms, even if non-Cebuanos were to be subjected to a 10-day quarantine period here,” Garcia said.
This was confirmed by Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu (HRRAC) president Carlo Suarez.
Meanwhile, the HRRAC has requested the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to raise the room rate of OFWs staying in Cebu hotels.
OWWA pays Cebu hotels PHP1,400 per night compared to the PHP2,500 to PHP2,800 it pays hotels in Metro Manila.
“You know, that 1,400 (pesos) is not only for the accommodation. That includes three meals a day. So it’s practically a losing proposition for our hotels and I wouldn’t blame them if there aren’t too many who are excited about joining as a multi-use facility,” Garcia said.
She added that this disparity in hotel rates should be addressed.
“Why this huge disparity? When our hotels have the same facilities and our hotels are located in the same highly-urbanized areas like NCR (National Capital Region),” the governor said. (PNA)