Worried Cebu biz leaders call for talks

By: Victor Anthony V. Silva August 17,2016 - 11:12 PM


The 50-50 flight rerouting scheme proposal where half of the flights in the Visayas area will be diverted to Clark International Airport and the other half will be allowed to continue to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila has worried business leaders in Cebu and has prompted them to call for a consultation to discuss the proposal before it would be implemented.

Local business leaders cited business costs and inconvenience to the passengers as the causes of their concern.

Melanie Ng, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president, said they would have to wait for more details on the plan because rerouted passengers would be required to travel longer if they would land at the Clark International Airport.

“Cebu to Manila (CEB-MNL) flights might be expensive and overbooked whereas Cebu to Clark (CEB-CRK) flights might not be full,” she said in a text message.

The Clark International Airport is located within the Clark Freeport Zone in Mabalacat, Pampanga, around 80 kilometers northwest of Manila.

Compromise plan

Michael Dino, presidential assistant for the Visayas, presented this 50-50 flight rerouting scheme proposal in a letter to Secretary Michael Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTR) dated Aug. 12, 2016 as a compromise proposal to the national government’s plan to divert all Tacloban-Manila flights to Clark International Airport.

The compromise proposal was to address the need to decongest NAIA and the initial response of the business community from Eastern Visayas.

Dino said the areas which would be affected by the proposal would include Cebu, Tacloban, Bohol, Dumaguete, Iloilo and Bacolod.

Dino also sent a letter informing President Rodrigo Duterte of the proposal.
The DOTR earlier planned to implement a full rerouting scheme for Tacloban to Manila flights as recommended by the airline industry.

Negative impact

The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Tacloban-Leyte Chapter, however, said this will “cause grave negative impact on the fragile regional economy and effectively kill the tourism industry’s growth potential of Eastern Visayas.”

The PCCI chapter passed a resolution “urging the DOTR to reconsider and desist from implementing the rerouting of all Tacloban-Manila flights to Clark International Airport” which Dino attached to his letter.

The resolution enumerates higher costs, extended travel time and greater inconvenience as among the reasons PCCI chapter was against the proposal.

While he recognized the overwhelming task of the DOTR in solving Metro Manila traffic and NAIA congestion, he also considered the negative impacts of rerouting all Tacloban-Manila flights, as well as other Visayas area flights, to Clark.

Dino also said his office would be willing to assist the DOTR and airline industry players for public consultations or hearings in the Visayas.

Mass transit

For CCCI’s Ng, cost of doing business might increase and enterprises in Cebu might be affected by the proposed plan.

She said that this might also be an inconvenience to passengers who have to commute by land to Manila.

“Government has to establish the mass transit system from Clark to Manila first in order for this plan to be viable,” Ng said.

Nonetheless, she said the chamber looks forward to a consultation wherein the public and business stakeholders can discuss and share ideas about the plan with airlines and government agencies concerned.

Runway proposal

Glenn Soco, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCI) president, said the plan would need more careful study and consultation with different stakeholders.

He said that while Clark International Airport would be a feasible option, the travel time, the related costs and its impact on business and the consumers would need to be factored in making the decision.

“Maybe it’s more practical to build another runway,” Soco said.

Gordon Alan “Dondi” Joseph, president of the Cebu Business Club, said that the 50-50 proposal would be a welcome compromise.

However, he said he was still worried about the implications of the plan’s implementation.
“Many businessmen from Manila and Cebu fly to and from Cebu and Manila. This will mean additional travel time to and from Clark to Manila of two hours each way,” Joseph added.

MCIA head’s reax

Nigel Paul Villarete, Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) general manager, meanwhile, said the proposal would certainly address congestion through the reduction of runway utilization at NAIA.

Half of MCIA’s routes are flying to Manila, so diverting half of that to Clark would certainly ease the slotting issues in NAIA, he added.

There are currently more than 32 daily flights from Cebu to Manila under three different airlines.

Villarete also cited the need to study the origin-destination matrix for Manila passengers, since the acceptability of Clark as the destination airport had not been known, and airlines passengers would have different responses to involuntary route changes.

“It might mean overbooking in CEB-MNL flights while getting undesirable load factors on CEB-CRK flights,” he explained.

He also said that he agreed that consultations were necessary to determine the optimum sharing between Manila and Clark.

The proposal, however, will not have a significant effect on MCIA, he said, but it might on airlines if per-head preferences are skewed towards NAIA.

“MCIA will support whatever decision the national leadership will arrive at on this issue,” he also said.

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TAGS: Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Duterte, Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, MCCI, Melanie Ng, NAIA, Ng, Ninoy Aquino International Airport, President Duterte, President Rodrigo Duterte, Rodrigo Duterte
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