Finally, Cebu Pacific cuts surcharges

In town today in Davao are the officers of the National Halal Accreditation Board of the Philippines, Inc. They are holding a team building seminar courtesy of the Department of Trade & Industry at the Waterfront Insular Hotel starting today up to Friday.

Also in town is Consul John Rivas from Northern Territory, Australia. Darwin, capital of NT, is hosting the Arafura Games this coming May 9-17. He is set to meet officials of the Philippine Sports Commission and the city government.

Welcome to all our guests.

Thanks to ICT Davao, Inc. for a post-New Year gig last night at Riverview in Maa.

And finally, Cebu Pacific has heeded our call to remove or reduce its fuel surcharges. We have been calling for this move since oil prices started to plummet a few months back.

PAL late again

Thanks, but Philippine Airlines is late again.

Many airlines have been cutting their fuel surcharges as early as two or three months ago as prices of crude oil in the world market started to tumble. I delivered a privilege speech at the City Council September 9 urging local airlines to adjust their fuel surcharges in fairness to their passengers.

PAL is heeding this call only now. Just like big oil players, which have been slow in adjusting fuel prices corresponding to the decline in crude prices by more than 50 percent from a high of $147 to $69 per barrel recently, PAL has been shortchanging its passengers.

To add salt to our financial injury, PAL is lowering its fuel surcharges not today but “early next month.”

Oh well if there is highway robbery, then this one is sky robbery!

The Civil Aviation Board should look into this matter. There ought to be a law that should automatically peg the increase and decrease of fuel surcharges to the rise and fall of crude prices in the world market.

This practice of milking passengers with high fuel surcharges when prices of oil and gas are substantially falling is patently criminal.


The trouble with exposing graft and corruption in this country is that the whistle blower gets into trouble.

There is a long list of journalists and activists who are now six feet under, for instance, because of exposing and opposing graft and corruption.

For the lucky ones who are still living, tables are turned against them. The Court of Appeals justice who exposed a P10 million bribe over the Meralco-GSIS court battle is now the reverse target of finger-pointing. He is now being accused of actually demanding P50 million! Tsk tsk!

I believe this is a ploy to destroy his credibility as the Supreme Court steps into the matter. This anomaly is a big blow to the judiciary.

This is truly not a good week for wheeler dealers.

At the Senate hearing on the swine scam, a huge “arranger’s fee” was exposed in the loan by the Land Bank to Quedan Corp to fund the government’s swine program. The two incidentally are both government owned so why was there a need for a “loan arranger?”

Senator Jamby Madrigal named Davaoeno Jose Nograles, brother of the Speaker, as the alleged wheeler dealer. Jose Nograles was a senior VP at the bank before his appointment recently as president of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The Speaker has denied any wrongdoing by his brother. But just the same this is major headache for the government.

Another trouble in my list today is Cebu Pacific flying into turbulent skies.

Last June the low-cost carrier announced plans for direct Davao-Hong Kong and Davao-Singapore flights. It was featured in newspapers and its website. In gratitude for this service, the City Council passed a Resolution, which I authored, commending the airline.

Last Wednesday, I learned from Baby Montemayor, who runs a travel agency and chairs the Southern Philippines Tourism Council, that Cebu Pacific has canceled these direct flights. I told her I did not read any notice in the papers or in the airlines’ website.

I believe Cebu Pacific invited trouble in not informing its passengers about these cancellations.

Last night, I received one such complaint via email from a Davaoeno who booked a flight for 18 persons for a group vacation to Singapore. To their dismay, their Davao-Singapore flight was re-routed to Davao-Manila-Singapore and then later to Davao-Cebu-Singapore without officially notifying them.

My advise to those aggrieved is to consult their lawyers. We can bring this matter too to the attention of the Department of Trade & Industry, the agency implementing the Consumers Act, and the Civil Aviation Board, which supervises the airline industry.

A simple public notice of the flight suspension would have forewarned the public. Now, Cebu Pacific is in trouble. Not only to those who have canceled flights but to many of us who were mis-informed.

I pray I will not get into trouble for writing this. Amen.

5:42 a.m.

Davao-Bangkok airlink

The timing is bad given the dim prospects of the travel industry due to rising cost of fuel.

However, I believe local tourism industry players should strike the iron while it is hot.

The recent air agreements signed by the country has finally included Davao as a new gateway. I have been batting for this during the past five years and finally the Civil Aviation Board has acceded.

Short of our desired “open skies” policy for Davao, these new air agreements gave flight entitlements for the city from Thailand, Netherlands and Hong Kong.

My particular interest is Bangkok. As one of Asia’s main regional hubs, I have been proposing for air links between Davao and the Thai capital since 2003. Bangkok receives more than 1 million tourists a month. If we can lure even just 1 percent of that throng, Davao could easily double its foreign tourist arrivals annually! And that is not counting Thai tourists yet just to show how huge this market is.

Amsterdam is too far to make any plans for now. While flights to Hong Kong are now available.

So, local tourism industry players should not let this opportunity pass by. They should immediately work with either local air carriers or Thai airlines to mount direct air links between the city and Bangkok. This would give Davao a foothold in the booming Mekong Delta region that includes rising tourist destinations such as Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

I am confident we can develop a good market for the Davao-Bangkok sector not only for tourism but for trade and the overseas Filipino market as well.

See related posts at our Open Skies category at the left sidebar.

5:09 a.m.

Sleeping on the job

The best seats on board airplanes are not those on first class with today’s bed in the skies.

Its actually the front seat for the pilots.

Here’s a case of two of them overshooting their destination for napping on high altitude.

11:53 a.m.

Back online 2

I just contributed the following at on What to do in Davao:

24 hours in my city

Boat rides to Paradise Island in Samal from Davao City open at 6 a.m. It’s the best time to take a trip to the white-sand beach resort. And have the beach almost to yourself.

After the chilly crossing to the island, one can have a multiple choice of morning delights. Take a brisk walk around, including at its mini-zoo; take a dip at the cool blue water; sample the aquabikes or snorkel and play with the fishes.

Breakfast awaits you after this bevy of activities. The resort offers both continental and Filipino cuisine. Try to down fresh coconut juice to end your trip.

On your way back downtown, drop by the Davao Museum at Insular Village, It opens at 9. The visit should give you a glimpse of the colorful lumad culture of the city. Davao is home to many cultural tribes. And in spite of progress, they have retained many of their local practices like celebrating the bountiful harvest during the Kadayawan festival (August).

To have some of those lumad crinckets, make a stop next at Aldevinco Shopping Center, just across Marco Polo Hotel and Ateneo de Davao University. Its fun to discover this place as a shopping paradise cum museum.

By 11, you should be heading south for Davao’s eco-tourism wonders at the foot of Mt Apo … Eden Nature Park in Toril District or Malagos Garden at Baguio District. At Eden one can have a panoramic view of the Davao Gulf. In Malagos, sample the local red wine made from bignay, local small red berries. In both places, lunch on organically-grown fresh vegetables and fruits amidst a lush setting of rich flora.

Take a quick nap aboard the van while on the way back as the sun sets silhouetting the many fruit orchards at Calinan and Tugbok Districs. Wake yourself up with durian coffee at Blu Gre at Landco Building when you reach downtown.

Or take this other eco-adventure – river-rafting the mighty Davao River. Your trip from upland Tamugan would end at the Crocodile Park by the Dizon’s River Front. There you can feed the crocks or feast on their special delicacies and famous pomelo.

Dinner should not be any problem after you freshen up. Take your pick – fresh seafoods at Ahfat, Korean delights at Arirang, Pinoy favorites at Probinsya or Chinese cuisine at Emerald all at the Victoria Plaza Carpark. An alternative would be Jack Ridge’s at Shrine Hill for al fresco dining with a scenic view of Davao’s skyline at night.

Dessert? For both the aficionados and the first-timers, the fruit that “smells like hell but tastes like heaven” are available at Magsaysay Park or along Anda St. Insist on the local varieties. Durian is now grown year-round but the best times are July to October.

The night would still be young by the time you finish your meal. So, head out to feel the pulse of the city’s nightlife. Coffee shops and bars are aplenty. Happy hour sing-a-long at Goodtimes just off Sta Ana Church or Chico’s along Rizal St.

If you want to meet the locals, try a quick look at the People’s Park. It’s a garden and open air art gallery rolled into one where the city’s rich and hoi polloi enjoy an urban oasis.

Prefer dancing and live bands? Then be by 9 pm at MTS (Matina Town Square), or at the restobar row along F. Torres or at The Venue (infront of Central Bank) or at the Damosa Gateway.

After the booze, try to avoid any hung-over with hot and spicy soup before the bed. Try Bullcachong along Gen. Luna St.

Then dream on the best day you ever had in my city.

8:11 a.m.


The report of the Department of Tourism that domestic passenger volume at the Davao International Airport decreased by 1.5 percent in 2007 compared to the previous year should be checked.

I can not believe such figure. Both PAL and Cebu Pacific reported growth in this sector with the two air carriers even adding more flights and new routes to Davao in 2007.

The Air Transport Office should be the more reliable agency to dish out such air passenger stats, not DOT. In counting tourists, for instance, DOT gets its figures from hotel registry, not truly a believable source.

Davao City tourism industry leaders should get to the bottom of this report. Otherwise people could get the impression tourism is declining in the city, which is bad for its efforts to lure more visitors.

(5:33 a.m.)

3rd in the World

This is another slap on the face of Save Our Skies (SOS) coalition which is opposing the entry of foreign air carriers in the country via the “open skies” regime. SOS raises the bogey that this would kill the domestic airlines.

Well, here’s another proof that SOS is lying like the Palace occupant.

The Philippines ranked 3rd in the world in air travel growth after India and Mexico. Our No. 1 airline Cebu Pacific recorded a whooping 47 percent growth rate. And this happened in spite of four years already of the Clark experiment on “open skies.”

Proves once more that the fears of SOS are unfounded.

See related posts under “Open Skies

(6:20 a.m.)

Scaring us again

Oh well, here they go again scaring us against “open skies.”

The claim of the Save Our Skies (SOS) that opening the aviation industry would kill domestic airlines simply do not match the numbers.

The “pocket open skies” at Clark is now four years old, and certainly Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific have not folded up. In fact, on the contrary, the two main local air carriers never had it so good during these past years. Both continue to post record load factors, sales, passengers and profits.

PAL particularly went out of its receivership last year after its utter failure over a decade ago in mishandling loans and personnel.

Instead of trumpeting this old refrain that local airlines would close shop if foreign airlines fly in, SOS should help prepare domestic carriers for the eventual “open skies” regime. The ASEAN is implementing this policy starting this year among capital cities, and eventually among other major destinations in the 10-nation common market.

Davao’s own effort for a “pocket open skies” to lure more foreign airlines to serve this premier city in southern Philippines had been blocked at Malacanang by this scare tactic. The city’s new airport is now five years old but no new airlines had been added to serve it. Lacking this vital direct airlinks has denied the city more tourists, more trade and better travel routes for Mindanao’s OFWs.

(4:48 a.m.)

Davao and the World Ocean Conference

After its successful hosting of the international Climate Change Summit in Bali last year, Indonesia will again host one of the world’s biggest environmental conferences next year – the World Ocean Conference in Manado, North Sulawesi on May 11-15, 2009.

Davao City should take advantage of this very important event and cash in on its ripple effects across the Celebes Sea.

One, Manado is a sister-city of Davao and we should extend our assistance to it in hosting this conference.

Second, Davao may be considered as the “northern gateway” to Manado. North Sulawesi’s Sam Ratulangi Airport can be reached through Jakarta and Bali to its south, via Singapore to its west and Davao to the north.

Thousands of participants to the conference – heads of states, top scientists and academicians, environmentalists, NGOs, media, etc. will be flying to Manado. Davao can offer itself as its northern passage. By then, Davao has direct flights from Hongkong and Taipei (Cebu Pacific) which could play as the hub for participants flying in from Europe, north Asia and North America.

Third, there would be plenty of opportunities for pre and post conference activities around the month of May. Davao can hold or host a number of these to take advantage of the presence of eminent personalities.

Davao can also offer special tours and exposure trips to the participants to the city showcasing its best practices in marine conservation like the turtle sanctuary, mangrove forest, and the Davao Gulf Development initiative.

Fourth, an ambitious event could be the holding of a sort of Davao-Manado Yacht Race or Davao-Manado fluvial parade in time of the opening of the conference. The Celebes Sea is the future Caribbean and a Davao-Manado cruise trip could be developed out of this idea.

I propose that the city take advantage of this big event. It would be a coming out party for Manado, and we should not miss this opportunity to play a supporting role.

(8:29 a.m.)

New Bacolod airport

The national government has just opened the new Bacolod-Silay airport.

I read the news in a number of online versions of national newspapers. However, none described the exact location or how far it is from downtown Bacolod.

Calling the attention of news reporters and editors. The obvious one important information readers and travelers who are not from Negros would want to know is how far this new airport is from Bacolod.

More confused

In Disparity, eight posts below, I am confused by the figures of tourist arrivals in the country. The figures of the Bureau of Immigration and Department of Tourism do not match.

Here is more confusion. The Civil Aeronautics Board, in charge of airports, has a totally different record. It claims that incoming tourists numbered 4.94 million.

Three more government agencies behaving like our Comelec. They simply cannot count correctly.

(5:38 a.m.)


There’s a big gap between records of the Bureau of Immigration & Deportation with those of the Department of Tourism with regards to travelers to the country.

BID counts arrivals at various entry points such as airports and seaports while DOT records those who check in at various hotels, inns, resorts, etc.

What’s the real score with our tourist arrivals – almost 3 million as tallied by DOT or almost 5 million as claimed by BID?

The DOT had earlier reported that Koreans are now the country’s top foreign visitors. But this recent report from BID showed that the Americans had the most arrivals.


The disparity in figures calls for both BID and DOT to reconcile their stats. Here is an earlier report showing the wide gap among Koreans in the country.

(7:50 a.m.)

Cebu Pacific is No. 1

Asia’s oldest airline must have really given up its position as the Philippines’ No. 1 air carrier.

Proof: a numerical trick by Philippine Airlines to dislodge Cebu Pacific as the top airline in the country.

How? It added the passengers, seating capacity, flights, routes and number of aircrafts of sister company Air Philippines to its stats.

Ha ha ha!

Haven’t you noticed that this trick was forthcoming? Well, I noticed that since the much younger Cebu Pacific claimed the No. 1 spot in terms of passengers flown, print ads by PAL had Airphil in it. That is to create in our minds that the two Lucio Tan owned airlines are actually one.

They might as well do that. Why indeed bother with two airlines when Tan can have one big airline that can really outflank the local competition?

No matter the trick, PAL has really lost the premier spot to Cebu Pacific, the latter being more market-oriented, aggressive and flexible. In this era of “open skies,” jurassic airlines, sans their new aircrafts, would really lose out to new and younger players.

(4:08 a.m.)

More than 3 times

The city-state of Singapore is so small that it can be just one of the islands in archipelagic Philippines. It has little natural wonders. Davao City is even 3-and-a-half larger than it and boasts of a number of natural attractions.

While the Philippines is happy in meeting its tourist arrival target of 3 million, Singapore has a record more than 3 times this number. And yet it is still striving hard to improve its services as a premier tourist destination.

More facilities are being built, thousands of workers being trained, and several signature events being lined up including the first night time Formula 1 race next year.


Whew! What’s wrong with Philippine tourism?