PRESIDENTIAL Assistant for the Visayas Michael Lloyd Dino is asking President Rodrigo Duterte not to reroute all the flights coming from the Visayas, including Cebu, to Clark International Airport.

Doing so would mean additional cost and travel time and inconvenience for passengers, he said.

In a letter dated Aug. 15, Dino proposed a 50-50 scheme.

This would mean that 50 percent of the flights from the Visayas like those from Cebu, Tacloban, Dumaguete, Iloilo and Bacolod will be rerouted to Clark while the remainder will still be allowed to land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

In his State of the Nation Address last month, Duterte mentioned the plan to divert domestic flights to Clark to decongest Manila.

A separate letter relaying the same intention was also sent by Dino to Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary (DOTC) Secretary Arthur Tugade.

Passenger burden

In both letters, Dino attached a copy of the resolution of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) Tacloban-Leyte chapter, expressing their opposition to the rerouting scheme.

The group said the rerouting will cause “grave negative impact on the fragile regional economy and effectively kill the tourism industry’s growth potential in the Eastern Visayas.”

For the Tacloban to Manila route alone, Dino said among those who will be affected if flights are rerouted are businessmen from Samar who supply live seafood to hotels and restaurants in Metro Manila.

The proposed full transfer of flights, PCCI said, will result to higher costs of airfares, transportation and airfreight.

It will also require extended and longer travel time for the public and will cause inconvenience, particularly to passengers who have luggage. It will also mean an increase in delivery time for air cargo freight due to the absence of a Clark-Manila rapid transport system.

Clark is some 94 kilometers away from Manila, which means an almost two-hour drive on a private vehicle, depending on the traffic.

While they understand the need to solve the traffic concerns in Metro Manila and the effects in the economy brought by the congestion in NAIA, Dino said other aspects should also be considered.

Dino assured Tugade that his office is willing to assist DOTC and the airline industry if a public consultation and hearings on the matter will be made.

In a phone interview last night, Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president Melanie Ng said the government should put in place a mass transport system from Clark to Manila to minimize passenger inconvenience, before any rerouting is done.

Ng said that diverting flights would mean additional cost to passengers and businesses since they would spend more for travel and for transporting goods from Clark to Manila.

It would mean longer travel time, too.

Consultation needed

“This will affect passengers in terms of handling their schedule, and will increase cost for businesses. The cost of doing business is a primary concern so unless there’s a mode of transport from Clark airport to Manila, it would not be convenient. Maybe there’s a plan already, so we would like to hear more about the transit plans,” she told Sun.Star Cebu.

Ng said the local businessmen and the passengers would appreciate being consulted on the matter.

For his part, Mactan -Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA) General Manager Nigel Paul Villarete agreed that partial rerouting would address congestion at NAIA, since half of the flights that leave Mactan are bound for Manila.

“So diverting half of that to Clark will certainly ease the slotting issues in NAIA. There is a need to study the origin-destination matrix for Manila passengers, however, because the acceptability of Clark as the destination airport is not known and airline passengers have different responses to involuntary route changes,” he said.

He also agreed that stakeholders should be consulted to determine the optimum sharing between the Manila and Clark airports.