Davao direct flights to Saudi, Kuala Lumpur pushed

Davao direct flights to Saudi, Kuala Lumpur pushed

IN ADDITION to the reinstatement of the direct flight from Davao City to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, representatives from the Davao City Muslim Affairs Office (DCMAO) are actively advocating for a direct flight to Saudi Arabia.

Gabriel Nakan of the Maguindanao Tribe, in an ambush interview with SunStar Davao on Thursday morning, February 15, said that the Muslim community and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been lobbying for a direct flight between Davao and Saudi Arabia. Migrant workers from Malaysia are also supporting this initiative, citing the convenience of reduced travel time.

Nakan highlighted the challenges faced by residents, particularly from Mindanao, in traveling to Saudi Arabia, emphasizing the high costs and inconveniences associated with reaching the nearest airport. 

He expressed concern for OFWs from Maguindanao and Zamboanga areas, stating, "Luoy kaayo atong mga kababayan especially sa Mindanao kay daghan kaayog OFW gikan sa Maguindanao and Zamboanga area nga duol is ang Davao City ug Gensan  (Our fellow countrymen, especially in Mindanao, are greatly affected because many OFWs from Maguindanao and Zamboanga areas find Davao City and General Santos City more accessible)."

The DCMAO has been actively pushing for the revival of the Davao City-Kuala Lumpur direct flight, showing support for the Malaysian consulate's efforts to promote the connection. 

He underscored that the relationship between Davao and Malaysia is not limited to Malaysians but also includes Dabawenyos and the shared enthusiasm for the direct flight is fueled by strong bilateral relations.

Nakan also said that enticing seat sales from different airline companies and hotel promotions attract the youth, particularly during Ramadan, to explore Kuala Lumpur—one of Malaysia's premier tourist destinations.

Additionally, he highlighted that Muslim communities in Mindanao prefer traveling to "Halal-friendly" countries, adhering to Halal requirements.

In December 2017, Air Asia initiated its Davao–Kuala Lumpur direct service, aimed at boosting tourism and trade activities between the two countries. 

The direct flight was a positive outcome of former President Rodrigo Duterte's visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, in December 2016.

However, citing "commercial reasons," Air Asia declared the suspension of the link six months later. The four-times-weekly direct flight last operated on August 21, 2018. 

In 2018, the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Incorporated (DCCCII) and the Davao City Tourism and Operations Office explained that the route's suspension was due to its failure to maintain an average 80 percent load factor per flight, underscoring the lack of Halal-certified establishments in Davao City as one of the reasons for discontinuation.

The creation of the two routes, according to Nakan, would hinge on the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), which evaluates data on average recorded passengers from specific countries. 

Currently, Qatar and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates are the only Middle East countries with direct flights to the city.

In a recent courtesy visit to the Consul General of Malaysia in Davao City, the DCMAO, consisting of the 11 deputy mayors of the city's tribes, aimed to foster collaboration on peace and security, tourism, and the Halal industry. 

Nakan highlighted their intent to pursue economic partnerships, foreseeing significant growth in Davao City in terms of business and tourism.

"On our part, we will showcase their unique culture and encourage them, considering in terms of our peace and security, we are proud of it," he added.

Deddy Faisal Bin Ahmad Salleh, Malaysian Consul General in Davao City, emphasized the strong alliance between the Philippines and Malaysia in various aspects. 

He expressed a desire to intensify this partnership as the bilateral relationship approaches its 60th anniversary in May. 

Salleh recognized the potential for tourism in Davao and the entire Mindanao region, citing beautiful beaches and Mt. Apo as attractive features. He noted that the revival of direct flight would further enhance connectivity between the two countries.

While Salleh hasn't provided a definite timeline for the flight's resumption, he remains optimistic about its revival. 

Malaysian aviation companies have shown interest, but a comprehensive study on its commercial viability is underway. 

Salleh emphasized the need to consider various factors, expressing confidence that many passengers would be willing to use this renewed connectivity. RGL

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