DAVAO CITY - Philippine Airlines today threw its support behind the clamor of the Mindanao business sector to open up Davao and other underserved areas of Mindanao to more access by foreign airlines.
PAL president Avelino L. Zapanta, in a major policy speech to members of the influential Mindanao Business Council (MBC) at the Waterfront Insular Hotel here, proposed the formation of a joint task force to push for more international gateways on the island.
“Let us join hands to promote Mindanao as a destination. PAL will even lobby with our foreign counterparts to operate flights to Mindanao,” he said.
Earlier, the MBC and the Davao city council passed separate resolutions calling for more gateways in underserved Mindanao areas through a liberalized aviation policy, or what was termed as “pocket open skies” by Davao officials for their new international airport.
Currently, 44 foreign carriers enjoy the right to operate passenger and cargo services to Davao and three other Mindanao points - General Santos City, Zamboanga and Cagayan de Oro - but only Silk Air of Singapore actually exercises this privilege via a four-times-weekly service to Davao.
“Clearly, Mindanao is massively underserved by foreign airlines. The Mindanao business sector must now focus on addressing this issue and PAL will do all it can to assist in this endeavor.”
Zapanta said the flag carrier would go so far as to incorporate Mindanao’s need for greater air access in its position paper for next month’s crucial air talks between the Philippines and the U.S. in Washington, D.C.
“We will advocate that giant U.S. carriers like Northwest Airlines and Continental Airlines utilize their long-dormant right to fly to Mindanao, which is crying out for more international flights, and not just content themselves with the overcrowded Manila market.”
On the part of PAL, Zapanta disclosed that the airline will pursue several initiatives to enhance its domestic and international services, including:
- The construction of a “Mabuhay” executive lounge at the new Davao International Airport terminal as soon as the latter is operational.
- The extension of business class service to all domestic flights. Currently, such service is available only on selected routes.
- The acquisition of a fifth Boeing 747-400 “jumbo” aircraft primarily to serve the high-traffic routes to the U.S. West Coast.
- The opening of regular services to Okinawa, Japan and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia by summer.
“PAL is not just standing still but continuously improving its product. And we are doing this without any subsidy or loan guarantees from the Philippine government, unlike our U.S. counterparts, which have benefited from massive state subsidies,” he added.