‘Why Not Clark?’
“Innovation” according to Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, can be described in the context of the California Gold Rush where one might think the challenge is done once the last gold nugget is uncovered.
With innovation, there is no last nugget, says Mr. Bezos. “Every new thing creates two new questions and two new opportunities.”
Mr. Bezos’ take on innovation came to my mind while waiting last Friday to board the Fokker50 flight to Ormoc City for the inaugural Cebu/Clark – Ormoc route. The flight was to take off from the General Aviation hangar in Lapu Lapu’s airport road. I got invited to cover the chartered service flight of King Aces Travel & Tours, Inc. (KATTSI) and Leading Edge Air Services Corporation (LEASCOR), sister companies owned by ACDI Multi Purpose Cooperative.
KATTSI is in charge of marketing, ticketing and ground handling services while LEASCOR operates the Fokker50 fleet that brings local and foreign tourists to second-tier destinations like Sagada, Batanes, Borongan and Guiwan in Eastern Samar and many more pockets of paradise in Leyte like Kalanggaman island in Palompon among many scenic and quaint tourist attractions.
ACDI’s foray into travel and tours (T&T) may not be innovative per se in the sense that the co-op was founded in 1983 by combat pilots of the Philippine Air Force. In other words, aviation is the co-op’s DNA.
When ACDI started 36 years ago, its bread and butter was savings and credit services. Then it invested in agribusiness followed by aviation training through Leading Edge International Aviation Academy. The aviation school produced pilots for commercial airlines. However, upon seeing the immense growth of T&T across Asia in 2015 ACDI saw fit to join the fray but with a mission. As stated by ACDI Chairman MGen Gilbert S. Llanto (PAF, retired), the goal is to go to lesser known attractions or “off the beaten path,” not only to showcase the beautiful places in the countryside but also to stimulate local economies.
The co-op’s T&T venture is paying huge dividends owing to hordes of inbound tourists from China and South Korea. In fact, when the inaugural flight landed in Ormoc City, a travel agent was already waiting to inquire about chartered rates for a group of South Korean tourists wanting to play golf in the Ormoc Golf and Country Club.
Still, the felt need among professionals and businessmen in Ormoc is how to get to the national capital fast without having to travel to Cebu or Tacloban and pass through Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s congested Terminals 1 and 2. Travel time from Ormoc to Cebu via fastcraft is 3 hours, 6 hours if one rides the slow boat. On the other hand, travel from Ormoc to Tacloban City is a bumpy three hours because of rough roads.
The Cebu/Clark- Ormoc route developed by LEASCOR provokes the question, “Why Clark?”
But for Councilor Lalaine Marcos, the real question is, “Why not Clark?” Indeed, why can’t flyers in Ormoc and the neighboring towns including Baybay City go to Manila via Clark when LEASCOR has a hangar in Clark? On top of that, LEASCOR provides free shuttle bus rides that will take passengers from Clark Airport to NAIA and in designated stops going to Pasay City.
Councilor Marcos stressed Ormocanons and their neighbors in Southern Leyte need only to “retool their thinking” because going to Manila via Clark is a better option. Travel time is cut by three hours, not counting the delays caused by horrible air traffic. Follow this link if you have any question: https://www.facebook.com/kingacestravel/photos/rpp.487986354722005/1175552595965374/?type=3&theater
The upgraded Ormoc airport boasts of a comfy terminal building with an area of 1,350 square meters. The old terminal building measuring 150 square meters was practically rendered useless after Supertyphoon Yolanda hit Eastern Visayas in 2013.
The rehabilitation project costing PhP34 million started on February 2018 and was completed in four months time. President Rodrigo Duterte, who scored a major win in Leyte during the 2016 national elections, inaugurated the airport in July 2019. Mayor Richard Gomez of Ormoc City and 4th district Rep. Lucy Torres Gomez are key supporters of the Duterte administration.
Such closeness to the President augurs well for more developments for the Ormoc Airport. Published reports say the runway widening project costing some P55 million is set to be completed next year. Meanwhile, the PhP82 million asphalt overlay and strip grade correction project is almost complete.
My quick visit to Ormoc was limited only to the airport terminal but I managed to gather some political tidbits from Councilor Vincent “Vince” Rama, a nephew of Cebu City Vice Mayor Mike Rama.
During the 2016 national elections, Richard and Lucy grappled with the decision to back Digong because they already gave their word to then presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe. However, people in the district cannot contain their support for the Bisaya candidate so Richard talked to Senator Poe to tell her about the Gomez couple’s change of heart.
Digong won in Leyte province but it was in Ormoc City combined with the towns in the 4th district that delivered the largest chunk of votes for the candidate who speaks the common language of the people in Eastern Visayas.
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