Business groups lobby PAL for Davao-Japan flights

BusinessWorld Online

DAVAO CITY — Filipino and Japanese business groups have asked flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to open direct flights between Davao City and Japan to boost tourism and trade links.

“We must not wait for them (Japanese) to come, let us come up with key initiatives to attract them,” Arturo M. Milan, president of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII), told BusinessWorld last week.

The letter has 18 signatories, including Davao-based Japanese Consul General Yoshiaki Miwa and representatives of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in Mindanao.

The letter was submitted earlier this month to PAL President Jaime J. Bautista through Victor D. Suarez, area head for Mindanao Sales and Services.

Mr. Milan said interest in Davao from Japanese investors has been on the rise while several government projects undertaken with Japanese cooperation are in the works.

“Japanese government and some private organizations have signed joint venture agreements with the local government of Davao on solid waste management, a biodiesel plant and the Mindanao Railway System,” the letter pointed out.

The city government, through the Davao City Investment Promotion Center (DCIPC), also expressed support for the request and noted that Filipino tourists to Japan have also been increasing.

DCIPC “welcomes this initiative as recent data shows the viability of the route as evidenced by the number of Filipinos traveling to and living in Japan, as well as Japanese residents who want to travel to Davao City,” said the agency’s head, Lemuel G. Ortonio.

“The proposed connectivity between Davao City and Japan will open opportunities for boosting economic growth, facilitating convenient movement of goods and people, and increasing the tourism activities and business exchanges in both destinations,” Mr. Ortonio added.

The letter also cited the “increasing (Japanese) tourist arrivals” and the plan of the city government, with the help of the Tourism and Infrastructure Enterprise Authority, to rehabilitate and develop the ‘Little Tokyo’ in Mintal, an old Japanese settlement pre-dating World War II where a Japanese cemetery is located.

Alexander D. Divinagracia, president of the Davao Travel Agencies Association (DTAA) and general manager of Globalwings Travel and Tours, said August is a particularly good period for attracting Japanese tourists with Davao’s Kadayawan Festival and the Japanese-Buddhist Obon Festival of honoring ancestors.

“We can revive this (Obon Festival). Most of the participants are elderly and the direct flight would be of big help,” he said.

Aside from tourists on both sides, Mr. Divinagracia said there is a significant number of overseas Filipino workers in Japan.

“I will support this move to open a direct flight. Let’s see. It’s always a joint effort of everybody to sustain this route,” he said. — Carmelito Q. Francisco and Maya M. Padillo

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