ZAMBOANGA CITY- Traveling tourists and businessmen from Zamboanga City to
Sandakan in Malaysia may soon cut travel cost and time as regular flights
along this route is set to resume next month.
In support to enhancing traffic movement within Brunei
Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area
(BIMP-EAGA), Asian Spirit, a domestic passenger airline, will start flying
Zamboanga-Sandakan route effective May 7 on a twice a week service for the
first two weeks and will consequently be increased to thrice a week flight
on the third week of May.
The airline will also fly Zamboanga-Jolo on May 1 and Zamboanga-Tawi-Tawi on
Asian Spirit has scheduled Monday-Wednesday-Friday flights from Zamboanga to
Jolo and Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday flights from Zamboanga to Tawi-tawi.
Zamboanga-Sandakan flights will also follow the MWF schedule.
According to John Baricuatro, head of Asian Spirit Davao, the said air links
need to be increased in support to the growing demand for air traffic in
these areas, particularly Zamboanga and Sandakan.
“We are re-establishing our links between Zamboanga and Sandakan because we
see the growing business opportunities within these areas,” said Baricuatro,
adding that the more than one million OFW population in Sabah offers a
bright prospect for air travel between Zamboanga to Sandakan.
In a meeting with the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo)
yesterday, Baricuatro cited the need for strong government support as
airline industry players endeavor to serve the skies of EAGA.
The Mindanao-Malaysia route was previously being served by South Phoenix
Airways which opened operations in December 2004 until July 2005. In 2006, a
Filipino-Russian joint venture Mosphil Aero revived the link but was not
“We are seing this as another significant gains of President Arroyo’s bold
support for making Mindanao and Palawan as international gateways by laying
down policies that strengthen the country’s participation in the
four-country cooperation,” said MEDCo chair Virgilio Leyretana.
Asian Spirit’s one hour and forty minute flight from Zamboanga-Sandakan
offers an alternative to the 14-hour sea travel sustained by the SRN Fast
Seacraft and Alesson Shipping Lines. It also offers a cheaper flight option
to the Kota Kinabalu-Clark (Pampanga)-Manila-Zamboanga route taken by most
Baricuatro said that the Zamboanga-Sandakan route provides an alternative
link between Sandakan and other economic centers in EAGA such as Kota
Kinabalu and Kuching in Malaysia, Tawau in Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.
To help ensure a viable operating cost for its first two years, Asian Spirit
is now requesting the Malaysian Airports to waive the corresponding airport
tax, parking fees and landing charges at the Sandakan International Airport.
This incentive will help the airline achieve a reasonable operating cost for
the development of the said route and other air routes in the BIMP-EAGA.
Asian Spirit is a domestic passenger airline with the mission to operate
scheduled services to tourist destinations and secondary and tertiary
airports where other airlines don’t dare to operate.
At the recently held 4th BIMP-EAGA TIICTD Cluster Meeting in Puerto
Princesa, Palawan, the Philippines has requested Malaysia’s urgent
assistance in considering that Sandakan airport be declared as an additional
EAGA entry point for air service.
During the meeting, the EAGA working group on air linkages agreed to grant
fifth freedom traffic rights to all passenger and cargo services in the
airports of Manado and Tarakan in Indonesia, State of Labuan and Miri in
Malaysia as well as in Puerto Princesa and General Santos City in the
These are the new FFTR designated points in BIMP-EAGA in addition to Bandar
Seri Begawan in Brunei Darussalam, Balikpapan and Pontianak in Indonesia,
Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in Malaysia, as well as Davao and Zamboanga City
in the Philippines.
BIMP-EAGA countries have been pushing for the expansion of air links in the
subregion in an effort to promote and enhance intra-regional trade, tourism
and investment cooperation among the focus areas.
The provision of air services in the BIMP-EAGA is envisioned to bring about
greater accessibility, facilitate mobility of people, enhance flow of goods
and commodities and attract investors to locate in the sub-region. MEDCo
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