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.

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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.

Troubles

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 wikitravel.org 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.

Decrease?

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.)