TACLOBAN CITY – Air passengers using the Daniel Z. Romualdez (DZR) Airport could now sigh of relief.
The controversial and much opposed plan to reroute the Tacloban-Manila flights to Clark International Airport in Pampanga has been scrapped.
The decision to cancel the plan was made known by Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla in a letter on August 30 to the Regional Development Council (RDC).
Part of the communication said that “Tacloban was no longer the prime candidate for reduction of capacity to Manila.”
“The Cebu Pacific group mentioned that it would instead start complying with the President’s directive by doubling its Clark-Cebu operations while the Philippine Airlines and Air Asia groups committed to study their network further and make announcement of outstations to be rerouted,” Arcilla said.
Arcilla, whose office approves the air routes of the carriers, admitted that concerns raised by the businessmen in the region prompted them to consider the consequences of this “drastic move.”
The rerouting scheme was met with strong opposition from business sector in the region as its congressmen threatened to call a congressional inquiry on the matter branding it as “anti-poor.”
“While the suggestion of Tacloban is a move forward, the government must not actually dictate where the airlines reduce capacity of transfer the same to Clark. What’s more, there should be other routes in the suggestion box, to prevent singling out of any provincial airport,” the CAB said, citing the earlier statement of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier directed the Department of Transportation to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and increase flights at Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
Arcilla vowed to consider the RDC’s position would there be any changes to the Tacloban – Manila route.
In its meeting on Aug. 31, the RDC approved a resolution of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Eastern Visayas chapter urging the transportation department to reconsider the rerouting of all Tacloban-Manila flights to Clark.
The group argued that rerouting will hurt the tourism industry, adjustment in airfares, increase land transportation cost, adjustment of airfreight cost, longer travel time, and inconvenience to passengers.
Tourism stakeholders questioned why the transportation department picked Tacloban for the pilot rerouting when disaster-stricken communities are “still picking up the pieces” after the 2013 supertyphoon “Yolanda” left a trail of destruction.
Various groups in the region aired their concerns after Tugade announced in a Senate hearing on Aug. 10 that the three airlines – Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines, and Air Asia – agreed to transfer all Tacloban-Manila flights to Clark.
The Tacloban’s Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport, one of country’s busiest airports, is a gateway to Leyte, Biliran, Southern Leyte, Samar, Eastern Samar, and Northern Samar provinces.
In the first quarter of 2016, NEDA reported some 311,944 inbound and outbound passengers at the airport. Last year, there were 1.14 million passengers who used the facility. – by: Sarwell Q. Minaiano