DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 20 February) – Philippines Airlines (PAL) remains interested in launching the Zamboanga City-Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia-Zamboanga City direct flight once the restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic ease, an official of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) said.
The twice weekly air service between these cities was scheduled for launch on March 31, 2020 but was set aside when international and domestic flights were cancelled to stop the spread of COVID-19.
MinDA assistant secretary Romeo Montenegro told the 12th MinDA Anniversary Virtual Media Conference on Thursday that the country’s flag carrier remains confident about servicing the air route between Zamboanga City and Kota Kinabalu, including other Mindanao areas to other parts of the BIMP-EAGA or Brunei, Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area.
“We were supposed to launch it together with PAL before the uninvited visitor, which was COVID-19, entered. It was put on hold,” he said.
He said based on the discussions under the transport connectivity and air linkage cluster of the BIMP-EAGA, PAL “has remained optimistic and open to serving that route between Zamboanga and Kota Kinabalu once major airports open up and we resume back to our normal travels.”
It has been more than a decade since an airline company served the Zamboanga-Kota Kinabalu route.
BIMP-EAGA is a 28-year old sub-regional economic cooperation initiative in Southeast Asia designed to spur economic development in the lagging sub-economies. According to the BIMP-EAGA website, this initiative intends to boost growth in trade, investments, and tourism through new intra-region shipping routes and air links as well as power interconnection projects.
Montenegro discussed the need to strengthen Mindanao’s air linkages with its neighbors in the BIMP-EAGA area, particularly East Kalimantan, which is set to become the new capital of Indonesia, one of Asia’s largest countries with an estimated population of 250 million
“We all know that East Kalimantan is going to be, for the next 5 to 10 years, the new capital of Indonesia, and this was already started following the announcement by President Joko Widodo because Jakarta is already sinking and they are looking at new alternative… and that’s going to be East Kalimantan which is just right next to our neighborhood in BIMP EAGA,” he said.
He added that they expect connectivity to be established in these areas later on, “both for sea and air linkages once we are back to normal.”
Newly appointed MinDA chair Mabel Sunga Acosta added that Mindanao needs to further improve its air connectivity infrastructures to get areas here closer to its BIMP-EAGA neighbors.
She said the new administration will play a big role in “continuance of big-ticket projects in Mindanao.”
“MinDA will push for it because we don’t want Mindanao to be left behind in terms of infrastructure which paves the way for development. We need interconnectivity within Mindanao itself and also with our other areas in the Philippines and also with BIMP-EAGA,” she said.
She said some parts of Malaysia and Indonesia can be reached within two hours from Mindanao via air travel. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)