DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 January) – Direct flights between this city and Tokyo, Japan are in the works, an official of the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (DCCCII) said.
Arturo Milan, new president of DCCCII, told reporters on Wednesday that chamber representatives had met with four Japanese executives engaged in the tourism business early this month to discuss the possibility of direct connectivity to further enhance relations between Japan and Davao.
He said the meeting focused on how to pull off the air linkage.
According to the City Tourism Office, the number of Japanese visitors to the city last year was 12,510, second only to US nationals with 20,779. Chinese visitors reached 9,231.
The other top visitors were Koreans (7,550), Australians (5,929), Indians (4,976), Singaporeans (4,040), Canadians (4,016), British (3,282) and Saudi Arabians (2,371).
The city recorded a total of 2,009,879 tourist arrivals last year, mostly domestic travelers.
Milan said he wants the direct flights to open in time for the month-long Kadayawan Festival, this being the biggest festival in the city, but “it will not happen unless there’s an effort on our part to promote it in Japan.”
He also suggested to strengthen the promotion of the city as a destination in Japan to attract more Japanese travelers by coming up with complete package covering even tourist destinations outside the city.
“We cannot do it alone. We have to have a complete package, not only for Davao, Mati, Surigao and nearby component cities so what we can do is to make tour package more exciting and interesting for Japanese,” he said.
More Japanese investors have shown interest in Davao as relations between the country and Japan have warmed up.
The Davao City Investment Promotions Center reported that a Japanese chocolate company based in Kyoto, Japan wanted to set up a manufacturing plant in the city while Bio Actives Japan Corp. planned to set up a fruit and vegetable processing plant in Toril district.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte, mayor of Davao for 22 years and first Mindanawon president, made a second visit to Japan on October 29 to 31, 2017. His first visit was on October 25 to 27, 2016.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Duterte’s hometown on January 13, 2017.
The city and Japan share a rich historical bond. Before World War II, a community of around 30,000 Japanese had thrived in Barangay Mintal, then the city’s economic center.
Efforts have been undertaken by Barangay Mintal to revive what they call the “Little Tokyo,” with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) earmarking P120 million to build a heritage site.
“I think, as mentioned to me by TIEZA, this will be the first project that will be put in the tourism map focusing on the good relationship between Japanese and Filipinos. If you go to other places, it’s more about the war. Here, it’s a different story,” said Ramon M. Bargamento II, the village chief.
Bargamento said the story shared by Dabawenyos with the Japanese during the pre-war Philippines was one founded on “good relationship” in contrast to the violent narratives elsewhere in the country.
He said one of the early Japanese settlers was a wealthy entrepreneur, Ohta Kyozaburo, who arrived in the city in 1903. He set up his Ohta Development Company head office in Talomo, and later moved to Mintal where his abaca business had not only flourished but had also driven the city’s economy.
He was dubbed the “Father of Davao Development.”
His success in abaca farming and processing drew other Japanese to Mintal, then the most advanced of all villages with a well thought of map similar to an “urban plan” initiated by the Japanese.
Bargamento said the Japanese built, among others, a school, cemetery, irrigation facility, ice plant, hospital, and hydropower plants with a combined power of 3,470 kilowatts enough to power the whole of old Davao City.
Hedcor, a subsidiary of AboitizPower, maintains the power plants – Talomo Hydro 2A, Talomo Hydro 2B, Talomo Hydro 2, and Talomo Hydro 3.
The heritage site that Mintal plans to create will include a museum, replicas of important Japanese facilities, improvement of Japanese cemetery, and improvement of the Ohta Kyozaburo Monument, located within Mintal Elementary School, but only known to many students as “pencil.” (Antonio L. Colina IV/MindaNews)