Last December 2012, Bacolod City Administrator Atty. John N. Orola, Jr. announced the planned resumption of international flights from Seoul, South Korea. This is in response to the improvements of the key golfing facilities in Bacolod City, citing complaints posted previously by the Korean tour company. However, the Bureau of Immigration seems to be a pain in the neck of the city’s plans as they refused the requests, admonishing the lack of personnel to supply the needs of our International Airport.
The Immigration Commissioner instead appealed that the flights be diverted to Iloilo International Airport, instead of Bacolod-Silay International Airport that the Koreans requested. The Department of Tourism is still active in promoting our new slogan of “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” but it seems that the Immigration Bureau does not agree. They seem to have forgotten that it is the tourists themselves who are asking to land in Bacolod-Silay International Airport, like they previously did in January, last year.
Is the “lack of personnel” the real reason as to why the folks at the Immigration Bureau are refusing to provide personnel or is there an implied political maneuver going on? Bacolod-Silay International Airport was built to serve international flights with space provisions for Customs, Immigration, and Quarantine. Now that the target market, foreign tourists, are themselves asking for direct international flights, so why not they give justice to what belongs to City of Bacolod and the Negros Island now?
In light of the issue, Bacolod City Administrator Atty. John N. Orola, Jr. posted a statement on the matter in his Facebook page:
For the enlightenment of all,
We are talking of 9 Chartered Flights for January 10 to February 13, 2013. More to come to eventually regularize the routes from Korea to Bacolod-Silay International Airport. Be informed, we are not quarreling regardless of the numbers of Chartered Flights, we have to institutionalize our use of the Bacolod-Silay International Airport.
For the information about the hulabaloo, read the communicationof our letter to the Commissioner David of Immigration Bureau and the reply letter of Mayor Bing Leonardia.
We’re working on this project and somehow something great will come out.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement.
Atty. Juan N. Orola, Jr.
It has been the dream of Atty. John N. Orola, Jr., himself from the tourism industry, to bring international flights to Bacolod, since the time that the new airport in Silay was still under construction consistent to former PGMA’s vision and the current admin’s push for tourism. He posted as well a copy of the letters sent by Bacolod Mayor Bing Leonardia to the Immigration Bureau:
December 21, 2012
Dear Commissioner David,
This has in reference to the proposed Chartered Flights of Zest Air to Bacolod-Silay international Airport from 10th of January to 7th of February 2012 which we are urgently bringing to your attention for you information and immediate action.
This project is being organized by Mode Tour Network, Inc. and Zest Air GSA in Seoul, Korea, the Seyou Air Co., Ltd., the same group who organized 15 Chartered Flights to Bacolod- Silay International Airport last January 4, 2012 to February 2012. The project could have been continued with more Chartered Flights in the succeeding months but was put on hold due to some serious concerns of the organizer especially in our Golf Clubs’ facilities and amenities which fell short of the expectations of their passengers and clientele.
Just recently, we received a good news that the organizer, Mode Tour Network, Inc. will resume its Charted Flights program in Bacolod-Silay International Airport from January 10, 2013 to February 7, 2013 as their concerns have been properly addressed and they find Bacolod City a very suitable place for their Chartered Flight Program.
We are closely coordinating with Zest Air ManagementManila and Seoul, Korea, Department of Tourism, and the Philippines Embassy in Seoul. We were informed by Zest Air GSA in Seoul and the Mode Tour Office in Manila that they already have submitted their application to bring Chartered Flights to Bacolod and they have not received any response as of to date.
If in the event that their application is being processed, may we request that it be expedited soonest as the Korean organizer will still have to finalize their publicities and promotion campaign in South Korea although as of to date, we were informed that they are almost assured of passengers for the scheduled Chartered Flight.
Furthermore, may we request for the following immediate assistance from your office:
1. Immigration personnel to be the point man assigned for this project and to be assigned to Bacolod-Silay International Airport for the preparations, Arrival/exit of passengers.
2. Passport Reader Equipment.
3. Computers for Derogatory Verification
4. A technical working group of the Bureau of Immigration be sent to Bacolod-Silay International Airport to conduct the initial site ocular inspection for the proposed primary immigration inspection counter at the mentioned airport including the installation of passport reader and computers for derogatory verification.
We will be requesting the Bureau of Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon for the issuance of landing permit. We will also be coordinating with your local Bacolod Immigration Field Office together with the Local Custom and Quarantine Offices and the local Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Office.
Sir, this proposed resumption of Zest Air Chartered Flights to Bacolod is a welcome development eagerly awaited by the people of Bacolod City who are looking at tourism as the next industry.
We have designated our City Administrator, Atty. John N. Orola, Jr. as the project officer who will coordinate with your office on this project. Atty. John N. Orola, Jr. was former Congressman of Bacolod Lone District and currently, the Chairman of West Visayas Tourism Council and Bacolod City Tourism Council.
We are looking forward for your kind and immediate assistance and support, and please accept our sincerest thanks and gratitude on behalf of the people of Bacolod City.
Attached is the proposed Chartered Flight schedule an information for your ready reference.
Atty. Evelio R. Leonardia
Furnished a copy was Ms. Maricon Ebron, tourism attache of the Embassy of the Philippines in Seoul, Ms. Mita Chuvy A. Arguelles, Bacolod City Immigration Field Office, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines in Manila and Bacolod, Customs and Quarantine Offices, and Zest Airways in Manila and Seoul. The letter reveal that interested parties has already submitted their application prior but the Bureau has not responded. Only after did they respond to the matter, the Mayor’s response:
January 4, 2013
Dear Commissioner David,
In your letter dated December 28, 2012, you relayed to us in your position that you could not accede to our request at this time for CIQ at the Bacolod-Silay International Airport in connection with the proposed Chartered Flights of Zest Air from January 10 to February 7, 2013 due to your office’s manpower and equipment constraints, and then your chief of staff advised that said chartered flights be diverted instead to the Iloilo International Airport, where you shall provide the necessary immigration services.
We would like to seek for reconsideration because Bacolod-Silay International Airport is of the same stature as Iloilo International Airport. They are both International Airports in their respective signages. It may not be fair that you shall provide the necessary immigration services there in Iloilo International Airport but not in Bacolod-Silay International Airport.
Please consider that this will not be the first time that the Chartered Flights of Zest Airways will land in the Bacolod-Silay International Airport. Several of these Chartered Flights and other international flights had already landed in the said Airport last year.
The foreign visitors taking the Chartered Flights will surely encounter much difficulty in going to Bacolod City, their target destination, through the Iloilo International Airport, and also in going back to the said Airport from Bacolod City. This will increase the cost of tour packages of the organizer and will adversely affect their costings which will not be very attractive to their clientele.
Local Government Units of Negros Occidental are one in working hard together in boosting the tourism industry of the province as an alternative or complement to the sugar industry which is expected to encounter serious competition from imported sugar in 2015 when the tariff protection that has long been enjoyed by the local sugar industry is finally reduced to zero as mandated by the international trade agreements entered into by the Philippines.
For Negros Occidental to enhance its tourism industry, it is a must that Bacolod-Silay International Airport should start putting in place its capability to receive international flightswithin the earliest possible time. The Chartered Flights of Zest-Air give us this golden opportunity to act on this need now.
We recognize the manpower and equipment constraints that your office is facing. We believe, however, that these constraints may be overcome if you make the decision to go ahead and accept all the help that will be offered by parties concerned, particularly the LGUs and tourism stakeholders of Negros Occidental, Zest Airways, and the foreign tourists.
Per information received by this office, the Iloilo International Airport has seven (7) immigration personnel and 5 passport reader equipment.
The Department of Tourism in Iloilo has volunteered to loan to Bacolod-Silay International Airport their computers with passport reading mechanism, hence this particular problem is solved.
It would also be a great help if the Commissioner could temporarily assign two of their Immigration personnel from Iloilo for the duration of the Chartered Flights.
As to the need of having Bacolod Airport declared first as International Airport to be able to receive International Flights, we believe it not necessary as Kalibo Airport and even Iloilo Airport are not even declared as International Gateways yet they are operating and receiving International flights.
We appeal for the Commissioner’s sense of fairness and we reiterate our urgent request for the Bureau of Immigration to approve Zest Airways application for a CIQ Landing Permit for 9 Chartered Flights to Bacolod-Silay International Airport as it is for the best interest not only of our tourism industry but consistent with His Excellency, President Ninoy Aquino’s Tourism Policy.
Your kind consideration is being eagerly awaited by the people of Bacolod City and the entire Province of Negros Occidental.
Very truly yours,
Atty. Evelio R. Leonardia
Now that the cards have been laid on the table, where are we going to stand kasimanwa? Should we let the golden opportunity go to the sow’s wallow or should we stand up for what Negrenses worked hard and deserved? My hope is that both government officials and citizens of Negros Occidental will never be complacent. The future of the land is in our hands. Bacolod City and Negros Occidental is destined for greater heights but it would only be so if all people see and value that great worth.