MANILA - The release of passenger manifests by airlines to government agencies is allowed because of the circumstances the Philippines and the rest of the world are undergoing to the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) outbreak, according to the head of the National Privacy Commission (NPC).
"If a government agency pursuant to its constitutional or statutory mandate, requests airlines to release passenger manifest, the same is allowed under the Data Privacy Act (DPA) of 2012," NPC Commissioner Raymund Liboro said in a statement.
Liboro explained that the Department of Health (DOH), the Philippines' agency at the frontlines in the fight against 2019-nCoV in the country, has the "mandate, purpose and the necessity to collect and process personal data to uphold the public welfare."
"Nothing should prevent companies from releasing relevant data to competent and mandated authorities like the Department of Health," he said.
Liboro said they understand some passengers' worries about their privacy after authorities processed airline data due to a Chinese couple that tested positive for the coronavirus in Manila, but he assured their data will be protected.
"The DPA nonetheless serves as a reminder of the need for data protection in order to assure the rights of data subjects will be protected," he said.
On Tuesday, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said only a fifth of 300 co-passengers of the Philippines' confirmed coronavirus cases have been contacted, and accused airlines of failure to provide contact information.
Only 17 percent of the passengers on board the Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights taken by the coronavirus patients in the country have been contacted, he told a Senate inquiry.
"Airlines are not sharing contact details of passengers. They are invoking confidentiality," the health chief said.
In a separate statement to ABS-CBN News, Philippine Airlines spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said the flag carrier shared passengers' contact details.
Cebu Pacific also said it had already provided the DOH and the Bureau of Quarantine with a list of passengers aboard the questioned flights.
The airline had also reached out to passengers aboard the flight taken by the coronavirus patient, Cebu Pacific director for Corporate Communications Corporate Affairs Charo Logarta Lagamon said.