Davao airport not ready to become AirAsia hub


BusinessWorld Online

DAVAO CITY -- The plan of low-cost airline AirAsia, through subsidiary Philippines AirAsia, to establish a hub in Davao is unlikely to materialize until the national government addresses the infrastructure and management of the city’s airport, a top official of the city’s business group said.

“Right now, it is hard to convince airlines to maximize their presence here because we have a poorly managed airport,” Arturo M. Milan, trustee of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII), told BusinessWorld when sought for comment on Tourism Regional Director Roberto P. Alabado III’s report that AirAsia has expressed intent to set up a hub here.

Mr. Milan reiterated DCCCII’s earlier stance calling on the government to create an agency that will focus solely on the Davao International Airport (DIA), similar to those handling the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in the capital and the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in central Philippines.

“It can only be enhanced if a body like that of the one managing the airports in Cebu and the NAIA is created,” he said.

The DIA project has been pulled out of the public-private partnership scheme and the national government aims to fund the project through official development assistance.

During a visit here last month, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said that the airport will have an initial face-lift as he himself noticed that restrooms were “swarmed with cockroaches and rodents.”

Mr. Tugade did not say how much preliminary budget will be allocated, but the Department of Transportation is already preparing for the bidding process for the airport improvement project that would cover ventilation, facilities, waterproofing of buildings, and the construction of covered walkways.

The DIA, also known as the Francisco Bangoy International Airport, is currently under the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines which handles 85 airports nationwide.

Mr. Milan added that upgrading the airport will encourage not just AirAsia, but other airlines as well.

AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Anthony Francis Fernandes attended the 4th Davao Investment Forum last month organized by DCCCII, where he announced the launch of Davao-Kuala Lumpur flights starting December.

Mr. Fernandes also said that the airline targets to open 10 other international flights from Davao within the next three years.

Mr. Alabado of the Department of Tourism’s Davao Region office announced last week in a forum that AirAsia officials bared plans of making Davao a regional hub.

“AirAsia wants to make Davao as regional hub for the Philippines. My interpretation is, if we say hub, there is a separate infrastructure and one is a terminal,” Mr. Alabado said.

DCCCII Chairman Antonio T. dela Cruz, meanwhile, said the opening of the Davao-Kuala Lumpur route is a positive indication of the airline’s long-term plan.

“’Pag sinabi mong (When you say) regional hub, it is an area where you park your planes and go to various destinations using that plane. Regional hub, meaning Southeast Asia connectivity,” Mr. Dela Cruz said.

Mr. Dela Cruz said the business chamber is fully supportive of AirAsia’s plan, but noted that all this would have to be facilitated by the government. -- Carmelito Q. Francisco and Maya M. Padillo  


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