Lower airfares for BIMP-EAGA pushed

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 10 Jan) – Senior leaders of the Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) have been urged to relax the travel tax in order to improve connectivity within the four-member sub-economic region.

Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

In his acceptance speech as new chair of BIMP-EAGA Business Council (BEBC) at Marco Polo Davao Tuesday, Vicente T. Lao said they would pressure “our senior officials and ministers that there has to be special rates to be given to airlines flying this route.”

He said the cost to travel within the BIMP-EAGA area must be lowered by easing out the travel taxes, including the landing rights fees, to encourage more people-to-people movement in the region.

Lao, also chair of the Mindanao Business Council (MBC), believes the airlines can offer cheaper flights if governments can address concerns regarding the “exorbitant” travel taxes.

“One of our interventions will be to look at tourism industry. We can relax a lot of the rules, make it cheaper to go around BIMP-EAGA. We will look for ways to improve tourism industry,” he said.

He added that by addressing the high travel taxes, the four nations could be more accessible and thus improve the tourism industry.

Lao said he wants travelling around BIMP-EAGA to be easier for both businessmen and tourists, which could be made possible if the airlines make airfare affordable.

“If you charge a lot, including landing rights fees in our country, tickets will become very expensive. If it’s very expensive, you cannot entice the tourists to come in,” Lao pointed out.

He added they want the areas in the BIMP-EAGA to have “a big potential for tourism” that can attract a number of visitors.

He added that they understand lowering or lifting some of the travel taxes may result in revenue losses but these can be recovered by getting more tourists to visit the country.

“Even though they lose some revenues in the landing rights fees, it’s going to spur a lot of businesses in the community,” he said.

“We would like to improve connectivity because at the end of the day everybody will benefit from it. We will have to strengthen our strengths and leverage on our weaknesses,” Lao said.

Under his chairmanship, Lao said they will try to develop “complementation” to boost productivity among the four nations.

“These are our core strengths and making use of common infrastructure and natural resources that we share present some opportunities to prove that development does not always have to be on the capital but more on the untapped potentials that BIMP-EAGA possess,” he said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)