LAOAG AIRPORT WELCOMES BACK FLIGHTS FROM CHINA

Laoag City, June 20, 2003 By Teddy Molina (Star)  Regular flights from Hong Kong and China to the Laoag International Airport will resume next month, Ilocos Norte Gov. Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. announced yesterday.

A test flight is landing here any day starting this weekend as part of preparations for the July resumption of the flights from the two SARS-infected areas, Marcos told newsmen.

The governor had stopped regular flights from Hong Kong and China from landing at the airport during the height of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) crisis for fear of infecting his constituents with the deadly pneumonia-like virus.

He said it was a bitter pill to take considering that the province benefits a lot from tourist revenues. Visitors frequent the city usually to play in the casino or in the province’s golf course.

Fort Ilocandia Resort Hotel and other local hotels here benefited much from the tourism boom until the SARS epidemic clipped it.

Marcos looks forward to a resurgence of tourist traffic which he said had gone down by as much as 80 to 85 percent.

"In my calculation, the loss of income from tourism due to SARS is greater here than in Baguio," he said.

On the upcoming return of regular flights from Hong Kong and China, Marcos assured that Ilocos Norte "is ready" for them.

Preparations, he said, include ensuring the availability of thermometers, the type used in big airports — to check upcoming passengers for fever and determine who among them may be likely carriers of the SARS virus.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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