Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia is asking Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. to reconsider his position and provide the necessary Customs immigration and quarantine services to allow nine chartered flights from Korea to land at the Bacolod-Silay Airport in January and February, City Administrator and former Bacolod Rep. John Orola said yesterday.
In a letter to the mayor dated December 28, David had denied the city’s request, saying that the Bureau is in no position to accede to it now, citing prevailing manpower and equipment restrictions that, he said, limit their available resources.
David instead requested that the flights from Korea be diverted to the Iloilo International Airport where the Commission can provide the necessary immigration services.
Orola said the chartered flights of Zest Air to the Bacolod-Silay International Airport, from January 10 to February 7, are being organized by Mode Tour Network Inc., Zest Air and Seyou Air. Co. Ltd, the same group that organized chartered flights to Negros Occidental in 2012.
Orola, who is in Manila on instructions of the Mayor to seek David’s reconsideration, said the Bacolod-Silay International Airport has the same stature as the Iloilo International Airport.
He said it would not be fair that immigration services are provided the Iloilo airport, and not the Bacolod-Silay airport.
The foreign visitors taking the chartered flights will surely encounter difficulty coming to Bacolod that is their target destination if they have to pass through the Iloilo airport, Orola said.
This will increase the cost of tour packages, which will not be very attractive to the Korean tourists, Orola said.
The local governments in Negros Occidental are one in working at boosting the tourism industry of the province as an alternative, or to complement the sugar industry, that is expected to encounter serious competition from imported sugar when the tariff protection long enjoyed by the local sugar industry is lifted, he pointed out.
In his letter to David, Leonardia said that for Negros Occidental to enhance its tourism industry, the Bacolod-Silay Airport should start putting in place its capability to receive international flights within the earliest possible time.
“The chartered flights of Zest Air give us this golden opportunity to act on this need now,” he added.
The mayor said the manpower equipment constraints of the BOI could be overcome with the help of local government units and tourism stakeholders of Negros Occidental.
He also told David that information received by his office says that the Iloilo International Airport has seven immigration personnel and five passport-reader equipment.
The Department of Tourism in Iloilo has volunteered to loan to the Bacolod-Silay International Airport its computers with passport-reading mechanism, he added.
It would be a great help if the commissioner could temporarily assign two of their immigration personnel from Iloilo to the Bacolod-Silay Airport for the duration of the chartered flights, he added.
As to the need to have the Bacolod-Silay Airport declared an international airport to be able to receive international flights, Orola said he believes it is not necessary as the Kalibo and Iloilo airports were not declared international gateways, yet they are receiving international flights.
Orola said they are appealing to the commissioner’s sense of fairness as they reiterate their urgent request for the BOI to approve the Zest Air application for Customs immigration and quarantine services and landing permits for nine chartered flights to the Bacolod Silay Airport, as it is consistent with President Benigno Aquino’s tourism policy.*CPG