DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 September) – Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia Leehiong Wee will be among the passengers in the inaugural flight of Garuda Indonesia from Manado to Davao and Davao to Manado on Friday, September 27, one year and 26 days after Wee and Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Sinyo Harry Sarundajang signed a statement at the Indonesian Embassy in Manila to promote the reestablishment of the air route.
The last time this route was available was 12 years ago, in May 2007.
The inaugural Flight of Indonesia’s flag carrier, GA 6401 will depart Manado for Davao City at 10:30 a.m. while Flight 6402 will depart Davao City for Manado at 1:15 p.m.
The flight is available twice weekly, on Mondays and Fridays using an ATR 726-600 aircraft that can accommodate 70 passengers.
The Jakarta Post on Thursday quoted Garuda President Ari Askhara as saying the air route aims to provide seamless connectivity for customers and “could also help support development cooperation in economics, Investment, trade and tourism” between Davao and Manado.
Manado is located in North Sulawesi and the reopening of the air route will link Mindanao to its neighbors in the East Asean Growth Area (EAGA) comprising Brunei Darussalam, East Indonesia, East Malaysia and Mindanao and Palawan in the Philippines.
In Jakarta’s Balay Filipino Sunday night, Ambassador Wee told Mindanawons attending an ASEAN seminar and book launch that he is optimistic the revived air route would prosper and boost tourism as well as trade and investments.
Three Indonesian airline companies have serviced this route before Garuda: Bouraq, Merpati and Sriwijaya.
Romeo Montenegro, Deputy Executive Director of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) told MindaNews that Bouraq had chartered flights in 1998 but regular flights were between 2002 to 2004, Merpati in 2005 to 2006.
“Bouraq Airlines terminated its services in December 2004 since the company suffered financial and operational constraints while Merpati Airlines folded up its operation in December 2006 due to low load factor. Sriwijaya Airlines followed and mounted regular air services in the Davao-Manado air route in November 2006 but folded its operation in May 2007,” Montenegro said in his reply to MindaNews’ queries on previous service providers.
In his September 25 post on Facebook announcing the revived route, Montenegro expressed confidence this fourth attempt will be sustained. “Under a different economic landscape, we hope to see sustainability,” he said.
In the same post, Montenegro was asked if the fare is cheap. He replied: “PhP 6,500 roundtrip” which is less than the price of a roundtrip ticket from Davao to Manila.
MindaNews checked Garuda’s website and noted that a flight to Manado on October 4 would cost 776,750 rupiah (PhP 2,857.63) for Economy Special Promo; 902,250 rupiah (PhP 3,218.00) for Eco Promo; 2,096,400 rupiah (PhP 7,712.68) for Eco affordable and 3,605,400 rupiah (PhP 13,264.31) for Eco flexible.
The cheapest flight to Manado on Monday, September 30 with return flight to Davao on Friday, October 4 will cost the passenger a total of PhP 7,672.53 on Eco Special Promo to Manado (776,750 rupiah or PhP 2,857.63) and Eco Promo from Manado to Davao at 1,308,750 rupiah or PhP 4,814.90.
The Eco Special Promo from Manado on October 4, according to Garuda’s website, is sold out.
The roundtrip fare of PhP7,673 is still less than the Davao-Manila-Davao route fare.
Montenegro said the same passengers for the inaugural flight from Manado will take the return flight on Friday “but outbound mission in succeeding flights is being organized.”
In their September 1, 2018 statement, Wee and Sarundajang agreed to promote the revival of the air route to increase trade, tourism and investment between Indonesia and the Philippines.
On March 24, 1972, the Philippines and Indonesia signed an Air Transport Agreement to enhance the mutually beneficial economic relations and people-to-people contact stemming from centuries-old ties.
A subsequent memorandum of understanding on the expansion of air linkages within the BIMP-EAGA was also signed in 2007 where Davao and Manado were identified as designated points. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)