INAEC Aviation Corp. stepped up operations during the lockdown, providing continuous service to customers while complying with enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) health and safety protocols.
The ECQ imposed on Metro Manila beginning March 15 due to the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in restrictions on land, air and sea travel. With airlines unable to operate and all flights canceled, INAEC proved that its air charter service was up to the task.
As the helicopter transport provider of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX), which operates the Malampaya project off the coast of Palawan, INAEC transported SPEX personnel from their homes in Metro Manila and surrounding areas to and from the Malampaya platform.
“There was no question in our minds that for us to continue to operate our business despite the growing concerns on COVID, we had to take care of our clients and our people. We established a work from home program for our employees last year. And because we had protocols and resources in place as early as February, we transitioned into this new normal with relative ease. We were equipped for it before the ECQ was declared. When SPEX asked us for support, we were ready,” said INAEC general manager Dexter Ampong.
On March 18, 2020, less than a week from the ECQ announcement, INAEC began carrying SPEX’s personnel and cargo from its hangar in Pasay City to Puerto Princesa, Palawan, using its Beechcraft Super King Air 350 aircraft or utilizing chartered aircraft from AirSWIFT Airlines.
“We are grateful to INAEC for the operational readiness they demonstrated during this crisis.
What we have accomplished at this time exhibited genuine business partnership between SPEX and INAEC as it showed flexibility in navigating through this very fluid situation,” said SPEX senior supply chain manager Angelo Kris Marcos.
SPEX supply chain delivery manager Kim Makabali added: “Without INAEC’s support, our ability to supply the much-needed power for Luzon would have been adversely affected. From getting the charter together and ensuring that personnel movement proceeded as scheduled, to the use of its facilities and securing the permits for the flights, INAEC made it all possible. Although this is only the beginning and likely we will have more hurdles to overcome, it gives me great comfort to know that we have the right team working together to ensure that lightbulbs remain lit in this difficult and unprecedented time.”
“INAEC continues to be an important partner in the safe, reliable and efficient operations of the Malampaya facilities, especially during the ECQ. With INAEC’s support, the Malampaya crew was able to mobilize and demobilize safely to and from the platform, allowing the continuous supply of gas to power plants that supply a substantial portion of the country’s energy requirement. The INAEC team proactively and quickly adapted to the needs of Malampaya, including making sure that the risk of COVID infection is minimized during flight and appropriate permits are in place. The community of Palawan has also benefited indirectly from the INAEC-organized flights as it allowed the DOH [Department of Health] to transfer essential medical supplies to and from Palawan,” said SPEX managing director Don Paulino
INAEC president Benjamin R. Lopez said: “We are also thankful for the trust SPEX showed by choosing us. Our passion for safety has always been part of what INAEC is all about. But, beyond that, our desire to be of service to our clients, and to our country as well, drives us to do better. This pandemic gave us the opportunity to combine these values—safety and service—to create a coordinated, organized and effective response to the challenges posed by COVID-19. We have protocols in place to address every level of our operations, from booking to check-in, from departure to arrival. I am proud to say that INAEC is the gold standard in Philippine air charter operations when it comes to COVID response.”
SPEX could not afford a disruption in the operations of the Malampaya project, which supplies power to Luzon, including those used by essential services such as government offices, hospitals and other health care institutions. The Department of Energy thus issued a memorandum allowing energy personnel, including third party contractors, to travel and perform their work in areas covered by the community quarantine to ensure the unimpeded supply of energy.
INAEC’s services for SPEX required preparations made long before COVID-19 prompted the lockdown
In the last quarter of 2019, INAEC rolled out its work from home program to help its employees deal with the traffic situation in Metro Manila. As news about COVID-19 unfolded in January 2020, INAEC developed procedures for frequent handwashing, travel precautions, physical distancing and health screening for its personnel and passengers. INAEC then distributed face masks and alcohol to all its employees. It also procured disinfectants for its aircraft, hangars and equipment.
A general community quarantine remains in effect in Metro Manila. INAEC continues to carry SPEX personnel to and from its hangar at the Manila Domestic Airport and Puerto Princesa, Palawan, at least two times weekly. Since its first flight in March, INAEC has transported 588 passengers as of June 4, 2020.
INAEC also has hangar facilities at Clark airport and El Nido, Palawan.
(Story/Photos by: Maila Banaag)