Indonesian consul upbeat of Davao-Manado flight revival

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Thursday, March 22, 2012


THE new Indonesian Consul General in Davao City expressed optimism that the revival of the Davao-Manado-Davao flights will further strengthen trade relations between Indonesia and the Philippines particularly Mindanao.

This developed after Mid-Sea Express launched its inaugural Davao-Manado flight on March 18. The airline will initially fly the Davao-Manado-Davao route once a week on Sundays using a 19-seater Jet Stream aircraft.

Consul General Eko Hartono told Sun.Star Davao Tuesday he is positive the air connectivity between the two areas will accelerate economic development.

"Much can be done with the opening of flights. If we had a dynamic relationship in the past, then we can do it again right now," Hartono said, referring to the previous Davao-Manado flights that were stopped by previous airline companies after a few months of servicing.

Considering that Davao City and Manado have been progressing, Hartono cited the need for both governments and private sectors to work together in sustaining the new flights.

According to Shelley Sondakh, BIMP-Eaga (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area) executive secretary, the challenge now is how to make use of the linkage as part of the master plan of Asian connectivity.

Manado, Sondakh said, will serve as gateway to other areas of Indonesia.

Manado, the capital of the North Sulawesi province of Indonesia, is an eco-tourism destination and a key tourist transit point for visitors.

Sondakh said Sam Ratulangi International Airport of Manado is one of the main entry ports to Indonesia. The city's local and foreign tourist arrivals are pegged at an average of 100,000 a year.

"We hope to bring in more tourists to Manado and Indonesia under the BIMP-Eaga cooperation," Shelley said, adding that if a tour package works in Borneo, then we are applying it in the Philippines.

Dr. Wiske Rotinsulu, BIMP-Eaga Secretariat executive advisor, said Manado has so much to offer from the sea to highlands. "It is pretty much like Davao. From Manado, a visitor can go to Bali that is two hours flight."

Rotinsulu said travel time from Davao to Manado is cut short by 14 hours compared to taking the Davao-Manila-Jakarta-Manado route, costing only about P15,000 for a roundtrip ticket.

Hartono also said he is confident about the ongoing negotiations with Zest Air for opening additional Davao-Manado flights.

"An Indonesian company, Lion Air, will be flying as well maybe in May," he said. "Lion Air is progressing very fast. They just bought 230 units of Boeing 737--the biggest single contract for Boeing--amounting to US$22 billion."

Lion Air, he said, will fly twice a week, while Mid-Sea Express plans to increase its flight to two times a month.

Mid-Sea Express uses a 19-passenger capacity Jetstream 42, while Lion Air's ATR 72 plane can fly accommodate 60 to 70 passengers.

Everyone is upbeat about the air connectivity.

"General Santos businessmen have shown great interest in Manado and even the thousands of Filipinos working in Manado and more than 9,000 Indonesians in Mindanao," Shelley said.

"Connectivity is opening up the potential in terms of products and services. Business will prosper for both countries," Hartono said, citing BIMP-Eaga's aim of increasing trade, tourism and investments with and outside the sub-region by facilitating the free movement of people, goods, and services and making the best use of common infrastructure and natural resources.

BIMP-Eaga, which covers the entire sultanate of Brunei; the provinces of Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Maluku and West Papua of Indonesia; the states of Sabah and Sarawak and federal territory of Labuan in Malaysia; and Mindanao region and the province of Palawan in the Philippines, was launched in 1994 as a cooperation initiative by the four national governments to close development gap.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 23, 2012.

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