A manifesto appealing to local and national leaders, both in the executive and legislative departments to declare the Bacolod-Silay Airport an international airport, was signed by tour operators and other tourism stakeholders in Negros Occidental yesterday.
The group also asked that the Bacolod-Silay Airport be provided the required customs, immigration and quarantine (CIQ) system that will pave the way for the operation and handling by the airport of direct international flights.
The manifesto said Negros Occidental and Bacolod City have been working hard to position the province and the city as a tourist destination and haven, and for the tourism industry to complement sugar which is facing restructural adjustments in 2015.
It said that recently, Mode Tour and Zest Air arranged for direct flights between the Bacolod-Silay Airport and Incheon, South Korea but these did not push through due to the lack of a CIQ system in the airport.
The first chartered flight from Korea arrived early Friday morning with 126 Korean golfers and tourists and the second flight arrived 6 a.m. yesterday with 130. They, however, had to land in Cebu for their CIQ requirements.
Bacolod City Administrator John Orola said they will request Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya to declare the Bacolod-Silay Airport an international airport as soon as it meets the technical requirements.
He said they got a pledge of P5 million from Senator Francis Escudero yesterday for the development of the airport since it lacks CIQ facilities or a system to allow landing of international flights.
Orola said this is the amount needed to set up passport-reading equipment and derogatory verification equipment at the airport to enable it to accommodate direct international flights.
Mayor Evelio Leonardia said, “We hope this will establish the airport on a more regular basis so that when opportunities crop up, we can grab them, unlike what happened recently where we were helpless and not able to do anything.”
He said that with the reorganization of the Bacolod City Tourism and Cultural Development Council, he is more optimistic that Bacolod can make a lot of improvements tourism-wise.
Leonardia recalled that when his administration started in 2004, there were only 1,612 hotel rooms in Bacolod and this have increased to about 2,800 rooms now.
This is one of the most phenomenal growth-rates registered in Philippine tourism, he said, adding, “That, by itself, is testimony that indeed, the industry is alive and kicking in Bacolod.”
Meanwhile, Leonardia said the newly inducted officers of the Bacolod City Tourism and Cultural Development Council are Pinky Hautea as chairman, Greg Flores – vice chairman, Darlene Casiano – secretary, Maricar Dabao – treasurer, Ruth Concepcion – auditor, Mary Ann Colmenares – marketing and promotion, Dr. Ver Lacson – member of the Board.*CGS