Philippines: New air service renews Zambo-Sandakan link

May. 22, 2007

ZAMBOANGA CITY–A new air service is renewing Mindanao’s direct link to its
neighboring areas in the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) with Asian Spirit now
flying the Zamboanga-Sandakan route, bringing in more opportunities for
closer trade, tourism and investment ties between the Philippines and

Asian Spirit, a Philippine-registered airline company, offers a faster,
cheaper and more convenient way of traveling to Malaysia as it launched here
recently its first commercial flight from Zamboanga to Sandakan. A
Japanese-built Weiss-11, the 60-seater plane flies an hour and a half from
Zamboanga to Sandakan and vice versa on a thrice a week schedule every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

“We’ve studied the market and the market is there,” Capt. Antonio Buendia,
Asian Spirit president said on the market viability of the
Zamboanga-Sandakan route during the airline’s inaugural flight last 08 May.

Yeo Boon Hai, President of the Sandakan Municipal Council, welcomed the
re-opening of the route, seeing it as a sign of renewed confidence of the
airline business in sustaining business and tourism linkages between the two
EAGA focus areas.

“This flight will enhance the relationship between the two sister cities,”
said Yeo.

The airline enjoys free navigational and landing charges from Sandakan
government and 50% off on all aeronautical fees from the Philippine
government in support of liberalizing the subregion’s air linkages.

Asian Spirit is the latest airline that flies the Zamboanga-Sandakan route,
which was previously served by South Phoenix Airways in 2004 and the
Russian-owned Mosphil Aero last year. Aside from this new route, Asian
Spirit is also eyeing at linking Zamboanga-Cagayan de Oro City and the
Zamboanga-Brunei Darussalam routes.

The airline currently flies regularly to Tawi-Tawi and Jolo from Zamboanga.

“We have been trying to push for a strong relationship with our neighbour
and the key ingredient there is the airlink. We hope that Asian Spirit will
be able to sustain the flights,” Rafael Evangelista, regional director of
the National Economic Development Authority IX, said.

Meanwhile, Dir. Ricardo San Juan of the Department of Tourism (DOT) IX said
that the government will work hand in hand with the airline by exploring
marketing windows of increasing tourist exchange between Sandakan and
Zamboanga Peninsula.

Data processed by the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) showed
that in 2006, Zamboanga Peninsula has drawn a total of 507,376 domestic and
foreign visitor arrivals, about 885 of which are from Malaysia, a drop from
the 2,799 Malaysian arrivals recorded in 2005.

“The revival of the Zamboanga-Sandakan route is a positive indication of the
strong policy cooperation not only between Malaysia and the Philippines but
also of the other two members of the EAGA region, Brunei Darussalam and
Indonesia,” according to MEDCo chair Virgilio Leyretana.

He added that the opening of another economic gateway in Mindanao is “a
milestone in encouraging interest to the island-region especially in the
sectors of tourism and trade as the airlink will promote Mindanao’s
potentials to the international market.”

The Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area
(BIMP-EAGA) is a major collaboration to boost the socio-economic development
among poor regions of its member-countries by strengthening policies that
will enhance the movement of people and goods.

EAGA members are pushing for more regular air connections to link the four
countries to the rest of the world and accelerate the planned integration of
EAGA’s tourism development. MEDCo

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