By Dave S. Albarado and Ven C. Arigo
It may be exciting, but offers to operate more international flights to Bohol have been coming and it is no secret that a lot of people from abroad want to come to this island paradise.
There is just this problem. The tourists want to see more resorts and to increase the number of rooms in the various accommodations in the province.
In another development, officials have hinted that the existing 2.5 km airport runway of the new Bohol Airport in Panglao may be extended to 3 km to accommodate direct flights from North America and Europe to the island province of Bohol.
At a press conference at Amorita Resort on Friday, PAL’s Vice President for Sales Ryan Uy said that tourism infrastructure in the province needs more upgrading and improvement to suit up international standards.
Uy made a sweet statement probably caused some folks in attendance giddy at the possibility of having more direct international flights into Bohol aside from the current one servicing tourists from South Korea.
“Bohol is beautiful, but the tourism infrastructure is far from the ideal,” said Uy.
Uy said he was informed about more resorts on the pipeline. He said it is also timely since next year the Panglao Airport will be online and operational.
He also expressed excitement about the new airport, if plans don’t miscarry, will be operational by June of 2018.
Gov. Edgar Chatto expressed his deepest appreciation together with the top officials of the province for the effort of PAL to gamble on having direct flights from South Korea to Tagbilaran.
Chatto said having international flights going into Tagbilaran used to be a pipe dream. Now, with the flights becoming a reality, the dream has been realized.
The dream of having international flights is also a dream of Tourism Promotions Board chief executive officer Cesar Montano who was in attendance during the press conference in line with the maiden Incheon-Tagbilaran flight early Friday morning.
PAL leaves Incheon at 2:30 in the morning and arrives in Tagbilaran after four hours. Observers say it is pretty early, however, the management of the airline has a different take on it.
Uy said the schedule allows for early arrival and maximize the tour of Bohol. Upon arrival, Uy said, the visitors may opt to jump into the tour and perhaps get more time to sample other tourist destinations within the region like Cebu, Siquijor and Dumaguete.
The Tagbilaran to Incheon flight leaves Bohol at 5:20 in the afternoon.
Chatto said having the international flights coming to Bohol is an opportunity to showcase the vibrant hospitality and the culture of the Boholano.
Tourists will have a direct link on the number of interesting sights to visit in Bohol.
An audio-visual presentation was shown to delegates from the Korean media who were in attendance during the press conference.
The governor also recognized the effort of the airline to connect Tagbilaran to Bohol in order to afford the tourists the ability to move from one province to another and further experience the warmth and charm of the Philippines.
Having connecting flights to and from Clark also opens a gateway for folks up north to discover Bohol.
Chatto reiterated the status of Bohol as a peace-loving island province.
“This is an island to give you more reasons to be back,” he told the Korean and Bohol media in attendance.
He also said having the Korean media enables the folks here to provide a geography lesson driving that Bohol is far from the areas of the country where there is conflict and the peace and order situation is far from ideal.
Chatto hopes the Korean visitors will enjoy the stay and will come back to Bohol someday.
“Once you are in Bohol you will learn to love Bohol,” said the governor.
To allay the fears, the local government and the military assured the public about the peace and order situation.
Brig. Gen. Arnulfo Matinguihan of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Bohol said the public can count on the military to maintain the peace and to secure the tourists wherever they will go in the province.
Matanguihan cited the insurgency-free status of the province.
The general said there are enough security forces, including the tourist police, to help securing the visitors and tourists coming to Bohol.
Montano said challenges like the incursion of the Abu Sayyaf would only strengthen the resolve of the tourism sector and the local government to improve the peace and order in the province.
He even cited while clashes were ongoing in Inabanga and Clarin town, the delegates of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) who were in Panglao to attend the trade meetings were unharmed and indicated their plans to come back to Bohol in the future.
Calamities and challenges that happened in Bohol are also felt in other places globally, said Cesar Montano, head of Tourism Promotions Board. However, the resiliency of the Boholano will keep the tourism sector afloat for a long time, he added.
The launching of the Behold Bohol brand despite the challenges only shows the resiliency of the Boholano and the local tourism industry to sustain the momentum and be ready to accept guests and tourists that may come to the province, Montano said.
The plan for Tagbilaran to be open for international flights have been in the pipeline for so long. It was the lack of infrastructure that caused the delay for the realization of having international flights coming and going from Tagbilaran, said Bonifacio Sam, president of PAL Express.
The efforts of the local government of Bohol to rehabilitate the airport have been instrumental in the fulfillment of the dream for Bohol to finally accommodate flights from an international destination such as the one that opened last week.
PAL has recognized South Korea as one of its top markets. It has established links in various parts of the Philippines to service the Koreans, among the top visitors in the country.
Aside from Tagbilaran, PAL operates other flights from South Korea to other domestic destinations in the country such as Manila, Kalibo and Clark. PAL also flies to Seoul (Incheon), Busan and Jeju Island.
Sam hopes to expand the current services as the new service from Korea to Tagbilaran allows the tourists to have a direct link to see the sights and wonders of the province and truly behold Bohol and the nearby islands.
PAL also launched its Cebu to Tagbilaran flights to compliment the new Tagbilaran to Incheon flights last week.
Full 3-km airport runway
for bigger direct int’l flights
Bohol leaders are mulling this early to extend the Panglao airport runway to full three kilometers to accommodate bigger direct flights from America, Europe and other major global sides outside Asia.
Meanwhile, Bohol is now the newest foreign gateway to the country with the maiden daily Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight from Incheon in South Korea to Tagbilaran City Friday morning.
Also, South Korea is, thus, now the first Asian neighbor and foreign country directly connected to Bohol by air.
Gov. Chatto and Bohol First District Rep. Rene Relampagos got the full assurance of support from National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Sec. Ernesto Pernia for funding the “perfect” runway of the new Bohol airport in Panglao.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Project Director Edgar Mangalili said the runway extension can be worked even simultaneously with the operation of the airport starting June, 2018.
Mangalili updated Pernia, Chatto and Relampagos on the progress of the airport construction at their meeting in Panglao on Thursday.
Based on its present revised-upgraded design, the airport, which is of international standard, will have a 2.5-kilometer runway when finished and operationalized in the middle of next year.
The runway length can already accommodate connecting regional flights from neighboring Asian countries like South Korea, China, Japan and Thailand, among others.
The governor was told that the demand for direct Bohol flights from China and other Asian countries is growing.
But bullish industry and expert projections have indicated an unprecedented upsurge of Western tourist arrival, too, aboard bigger commercial aircrafts on direct flight in not a remote future.
The landing facility is, therefore, to be prepared this early for the “very likely” exciting happening by adding to the runway 500 meters more for a total of three kilometers.
It was assured at the meeting that the operation of the airport using the present design of 2.5-kilometer runway cannot be affected even if further extension of the landing pad is simultaneously done.
NEDA Usec. Jose Miguel dela Rosa and Reg’l. Dir. Efren Carrreon, and officials and technical people from the Japan Airport Consultants, Inc. (JAC) and contractors’ consortium also attended the meeting.
TWIN MAIDEN FLIGHTS
From the meeting, Pernia, Chatto and Relampagos led the Boholanos in the ceremony at the Tagbilaran City airport welcoming the inaugural flight also of PAL from Cebu to Bohol Thursday afternoon.
It was, an hour later, the same aircraft of the national flag carrier that proceeded to the Incheon airport in South Korea for PAL’s maiden daily flight, first international flight to Bohol the following day.
Full of Korean tourists, PAL officials and members of the media, the plane departed from Incheon at dawn Friday on its first Korea-Bohol flight that landed back on Tagbilaran airport at six in the morning.
It was the first international commercial flight by any airline ever to touch down in Bohol and Chatto described it as a tourism-economic breakthrough in the province.
PAL-Bohol Manager Emma Caseñas said this is the complete daily circuit of the new PAL route connecting Bohol, with estimated times of departure (etd): The plane leaves Tagbilaran for Cebu at etd 7am; Cebu to Tagbilaran, etd 3:30pm; Tagbilaran to Incheon, South Korea, etd 5:05pm; and Incheon to Tagbilaran, etd 2:30am, until arriving at Tagbilaran airport at 6am.
Caseñas said PAL will blaze another air trail—the Tagbilaran flight to Clark in Pampanga, vice versa—starting October 16 this year.
Chatto said Pal has now considered Bohol a hub destination, which means that the flights here can connect to more destinations like Palawan, which happens to have an eco-tourism sisterhood with Bohol.
The United Nations-World Tourism Organization declared 2017 as the International Sustainable Tourism Year and Bohol was the first Philippine province to echo the declaration.
Pernia clarified with the DOTr that the public-private partnership (PPP) modality of the operation and maintenance of the Panglao airport will push through.
This is unlike the other new airport projects in the country which may still need funds.
Also, there is no problem with the implementation of the Bohol airport as a major infrastructure project since its construction has been fully funded as supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).
While the project has been progressing right on its site, volumes of other construction materials have at the same time been prefabricated in Batangas and are due for shipment here in July.
Chatto said the NEDA secretary, himself a Boholano, is happy with the rate the airport construction has been accomplished.
The construction is targeted for completion in March next year, immediately after which are the installation of the passenger elevators and boarding bridges en route to the start of the airport operation in June.
From June to December next year, the planes can land and depart only from sunrise to sunset because the runway lights and other safe night navigation facilities are yet to be completed within the period.
The airport’s 24-hour, “all-weather” operation will begin in January of 2019.
Road projects worth P602.93 million are to be implemented beginning next year for easier, fast access to and from the new airport, Chatto said based on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) program.
These include the widening into four lanes and concreting of barangay Tawala, Panglao road, with drainage improvement, leading to the airport at a cost of P237.33 million.
Also for concreting is the Biking, Dauis road from the junction of the Panglao island circumferential highway to Libaong-Bolod in Panglao, P231.25 milllion
Another road leading to the airport, the Lourdes-Bolod-Tawala road in Panglao, will be concreted at P134.35 million.
The projects complement the main access road, which has four lanes with center light, connecting to the Dauis-Panglao central highway funded by JICA as part of the airport complex project itself.
A rotunda has been proposed for construction in the intersection.
Already in the DPWH Programs, Activities and Projects (PAPs) for 2018, all these are to make the traffic routes more convenient for vehicles going to and from the airport.
In the last project coordination meeting led by the governor, Panglao Mayor Leonila Montero and the concerned barangay officials were asked to help secure the road right of way for the airport access roads.