The chairman of the ACDI multipurpose cooperative (ACDI-MPC) revealed that their willingness to be the carrier for the resumption of the Manado-Davao flight is due to the "robust market" they have observed.
In a phone interview, retired Armed Forces of the Philippines Major General Gilbert Llanto, chairman of ACDI-MPC, said that before the Covid-19 pandemic halted the Manado-Davao flight serviced by the Garuda Airlines, he was already aware that it was flying a load factor of "very much above break-even."
"It is really a good prospect in developing this market," he said.
It can be recalled that Garuda Airlines was the last airline company to have serviced the Manado-Davao route before it was halted by the pandemic.
Llanto said that it was the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDa) that saw the opportunity for their fully owned subsidiary Leascor (Leading Edge Air Services Corporation) to provide a platform or aircraft to revive the Davao-Manado-Davao flight during their running discussion on how to promote Mindanao and be active in the BIMP-Eaga (East Asean Growth Area) again.
On January 4, 2024, Leascor, the aviation arm of ACDI-MPC, and MinDa led an exploratory business mission to North Sulawesi, Indonesia, along with representatives from the Davao-based chambers of commerce.
The delegates flew via Leading Edge 70-seater ATR 72-500 plane with the mission to assess the current market conditions and opportunities for reinstating the air route after it was halted by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.
“Davao-Manado has always been a viable air connectivity. We find this mission an opportune time in realizing this project. Hopefully, this time it will have more interactions, exchanges, and mobility between Manado-Davao, and the larger Mindanao and North Sulawesi,” MinDA Deputy Executive Director ASec. Romeo Montenegro said about the mission.
Meanwhile, Manado Mayor Andrei Angouw is positive that learning from the past unsustainable resumptions of the route, key leaders and stakeholders of Davao-Manado including private sector players should develop a concrete and holistic approach.
“We can explore many possibilities but we must learn from our mistakes this time. Trade and connectivity must go hand in hand so that we can connect businesses and visit each other more frequently,” he added.
In the mission’s stakeholders’ meeting, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI)-Mindanao Chairperson for BIMP-EAGA Joji Ilagan–Bian suggested the reinstatement of previous successful Manado–Davao EAGA initiatives in the areas of tourism, trade, education, and agribusiness, among others.
“We can look into reviving student internship and exchange programs among our schools, as well as joint hospitality, wellness, and cultural tourism undertakings,” Bian said.
Meanwhile, Llanto said if the flight resumption pushes through, they are planning to have a frequency of twice a week.
"But when we talked with the Manado group, they recommended that it should be thrice a week. Kasi pagka-dalawa daw masyadong malayo yung gap (the gap between flights is too far and between), and it's not good once we build up the response of the market in that area and in Davao," he said.
He also revealed that they are also eyeing to explore General Santos City-Manado flight if the current plans resume and yield positive outcomes.
The Davao – Manado air connectivity is part of the Mindanao - North Sulawesi gateways under the Asean Connectivity Master Plan with the objective of linking the Philippine archipelago to its Asean neighbors. Davao City has a sisterhood agreement between Manado and Bitung since 1993, both located in North Sulawesi.