Kilian said Air Frontier's expansion to Mindanao was earlier pushed by the NT government as part of its strategic development programs for the resurging Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).
He said NT, the sub-region's long-time development partner, is currently connected to the area through Garuda Airline's Darwin-Bali and Darwin-Balikpapan flights and Royal Brunei Airline's Darwin-Brunei flights.
Kilian said among the airline's primary considerations for expanding to Mindanao was the area's cultural connections with Darwin, which is home to more than 6,000 Filipino immigrants who trace their roots to Davao and Cebu.
Considering that the flying time between Davao and Darwin is only about three hours, he said it would be easier and cheaper for Filipinos in northern Australia to visit the country.
Kilian said Air Frontier, which operates regular flights between Darwin and several cities in Australia, is initially planning to establish a base in Davao City.
“We consider this as a long-term venture because both areas offer tremendous opportunities in terms of tourism, trade and investments,” he said.
Kilian said the NT government is eyeing to develop Davao City as an alternative gateway for various products from Mindanao and neighboring areas in the sub-region.
He said they are currently trying to link up NT businessmen with small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the area to facilitate the trade exchanges, mainly of agricultural products, food commodities and construction materials.
In terms of investments, he said NT is also interested in Mindanao's huge potentials in mining and related ventures.
“Mining is one of NT's expertise being largely a mineral base. We're initially planning to conduct a series of mining safety and mine rehabilitation trainings before the end of the year,” he added.
At least 12 Australian companies are presently working on various mining projects in the country, most of which are located in Mindanao.
Two of the biggest mining ventures, each requiring investments of over US$1 billion, are based in Mindanao — the BHP Billiton/QNI Pujada Nickel Project in Davao Oriental and the Indophil-Sagittarius Mines Inc. (SMI) Copper and Gold Project in nearby Tampakan town in South Cotabato.