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MinDA, LEASCOR explore resumption of Davao-Manado air link

DAVAO CITY, PHILIPPINES - Leading Edge Air Services Corporation (LEASCOR), the aviation arm of ACDI Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC), and Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) led an exploratory business mission to North Sulawesi, Indonesia to assess the potential resumption of the Davao – Manado air connectivity on January 4, 2024, Thursday.

Flying via Leading Edge 70-seater ATR 72-500 plane, the mission assessed the current market conditions and opportunities for reinstating the said air route which was halted by COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

MinDA Deputy Executive Director, ASec. Romeo Montenegro, said that the mission is a timely and strategic shared action on the revival of the said route.

“Davao-Manado has always been viable air connectivity. We find this mission an opportune time in realizing this project. Hopefully, this time it will have more interactions, exchanges, and mobility between Manado – Davao, and the larger Mindanao and North Sulawesi,” ASec. Montenegro added.

In the mission’s stakeholders’ meeting, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) – Mindanao Chairperson for Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), Joji Ilagan–Bian, also suggested the reinstatement of previous successful Manado–Davao EAGA initiatives in the areas of tourism, trade, education, and agribusiness, among others.

“We can look into reviving student internship and exchange programs among our schools, as well as joint hospitality, wellness, and cultural tourism undertakings,” Bian said.

Meanwhile, Manado Mayor Andrei Angouw is positive that learning from the past unsustainable resumptions of the route, key leaders and stakeholders of Davao – Manado including private sector players should develop a concrete and holistic approach.

 “We can explore many possibilities but we must learn from our mistakes this time. Trade and connectivity must go hand in hand so that we can connect businesses and visit each other more frequently,” he added.

A total of 33 passengers composed of MinDA, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and ACDI MPC officials, representatives of Davao-based chambers of commerce, dive tour operators, and members of Davao City Citizen Media Council (DCCMC) joined the said mission.

The activity was also assisted by the Philippine Consulate General in Manado headed by Consul General Lolita Capco who welcomed the Philippine delegation.

In her welcome remarks, she said that as both countries celebrate its 75th year of diplomatic relations this year, “the resumption of the Davao – Manado air link can serve as a gateway for more dynamic exchanges of ideas, interactions, and partnerships.”

In addition, it can be noted that the route used to be served by various airlines in the past namely Sriwijaya Air, Merpati Airlines, and Bouraq Airlines. On September 27, 2019, it was revived through the maiden flight via Garuda Indonesia Airlines, operating on Mondays and Fridays. However, it also ceased operations in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to ACDI MPC Chairperson, Gen. Gilbert S. Llanto, AFP (Ret.), the project should enjoin collective support and commitment of the business and private sectors of both Davao and Manado to ensure sustainable passenger load factor, continuous operation, and vibrant economic activities for both EAGA focus areas.

The Davao – Manado air connectivity is part of the Mindanao - North Sulawesi gateways under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Connectivity Master Plan with the objective of linking Philippine archipelago to its ASEAN neighbors. Davao City has a sisterhood agreement between Manado and Bitung since 1993, both located in North Sulawesi. (JKM/MinDA)

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Renelle Escuadro

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