The regional airports of Ponce and Aguadilla could begin receiving passengers as early as March. This is if the Government of Puerto Rico makes the determination to lift the waiver granted by the Federal Department of Transportation, at the beginning of the pandemic, with which all passenger flights were redirected to the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport (LMM).
“Opening the airports is not a unilateral decision. We are talking, we have had talks and we continue to have talks to see if we can start operations in March. When we have the exact date we will announce it, because first you have to talk to the airlines. But that’s where the conversations go. We are doing everything possible with the Department of Health to open in March ”, expressed the director of the Ports Authority, Joel A. Pizá.
According to the official, the federal government granted the waiver without a deadline, so the Government renews the order every 30 days and has the discretion to lift the ban when the country is ready to handle the arrival of passenger flights at Mercedita airports. in Ponce and Rafael Hernández de Aguadilla.
“When the Government of Puerto Rico decides to open, it does not need authorization from the federal government. Now that is very important, once flights are allowed and something happens and you want to close again, because there the Government of Puerto Rico will not be able to do it so easily because it will have to start the process from scratch again … When you push the reset button, it’s not that easy and it’s going to make it very difficult to stop it, ”he explained.
Pizá maintains that the protocols at the Luis Muñoz Marín Airport are among those of “greater rigor and vigilance compared to many of the states,” so that to resume passenger flights at the Ponce and Aguadilla airports, it is essential to be able to establish the same medical screening processes.
“Just before December 31 there was uncertainty as to whether the federal government was going to authorize the state government to use CARES Act funds after that date. But the Government of Puerto Rico did receive authorization, like all states, so there is a little more peace of mind with access to funds, “said Pizá.
Regarding the infrastructure, he affirmed that the regional airports “are ready” and announced that they have already begun to install the stations for the screening of passengers in both Ponce and Aguadilla.
“The Health Department is setting up the cubicles and much of the scaffolding that will be used for serological testing and for medical technologists. What is missing is the component of the surveillance system that has been completed ”.
In turn, the official said that his agency has been in charge of establishing cleaning protocols and making improvements at the Ponce and Aguadilla airports to optimize their operation.
“We have focused on investing to have the best technology and the best rigorous cleaning and sanitation plans at those airports. In fact, we were recently certified by the Airports Council International, a prestigious association worldwide and they certified us in Ponce and Aguadilla that we meet the best industry standards to face COVID, ”he explained.
The transformation of the Mercedita de Ponce International Airport into an “Aero City” on the way to catapult the economy of a region harshly lacerated by the onslaught of nature and government alienation, is the spearhead to break the crisis that has affected decades area.
The project, which was presented yesterday by members of the Chamber of Commerce of Ponce and South of Puerto Rico to the president of the House of Representatives, Rafael “Tatito” Hernández and several legislators from the District of Ponce, proposes to decentralize the operation of the structure.
To achieve this, these entrepreneurs propose the local investment of the capital required to move the airport forward and, at the same time, position it as one of the most important tourist destinations in the country.
During the meeting held at the Hard Rock Café in Ponce, the chamber president demanded the urgent attention of the executive director of the Ports Authority, Joel Pizá.
“The Mercedita Airport has to be in the hands of the people of the south. There is no tourism that can be sustainable with investment only for ‘hospitality’. We need the money not to stay in San Juan and for this, we must promote access to social justice programs, job creation and participation of local entrepreneurs, “said Hernández Montañez in the presentation attended by Mayor Luis Irizarry Pabón .