THE CLARK International Airport should mount additional international flights to service hundreds of thousands of Ilocanos abroad, an executive of the Department of Tourism (DOT) said during the sixth leg of CRK’s North Luzon Road Show recently held in San Fernando City, La Union.
“The Ilocano community in Region 1 is urging Clark airport to market itself to other carriers to service more destinations, particularly Clark-Honolulu and to other parts of the US,” Martin Valera, DOT Region 1 Director, said, adding that Ilocano migrants and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will greatly benefit from Clark’s direct flights abroad.
Valera said there are around 3 million Ilocanos and their relatives living in the U.S. West Coast. California accounts for 47 percent of Filipinos in the US while Hawaii comes in second, hosting 10 percent of US-based Filipinos, according to statistics from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).
“In Hawaii, there are more than 250,000 Ilocanos living there. If there will be direct Clark-Honolulu flights, that would be beneficial for Clark and for the Ilocano community as well, as more people will be able to visit Region 1,” he added.
The Ilocos region comprises the provinces of Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, La Union and Pangasinan. Filipinos—specifically Ilocanos—are the third largest ethnic group in Hawaii, next to the Chinese and Japanese.
“When we use Clark International Airport, we think of convenience as we save time when we get to our destinations,” Valera said.
At present, CRK mounts daily and weekly flights to Incheon and Busan in South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, Macau, Dubai, and Doha. Starting October this year, China Eastern Airlines will fly the Shanghai-Clark route.
Alexander Cauguiran, President and CEO of Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), said negotiations with major carriers are on-going for flights to Los Angeles which the government-run corporation hopes will commence within the year.
“CIAC is also negotiating with airlines to mount flights via Clark to Japan, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan and Thailand,” Cauguiran added.
Valera cited that it is much cheaper to go to Clark than Manila. “San Fernando City (La Union) to Clark will take us only 3 hours on mostly good days, and Clark provides big savings on fuel and toll fees aside from convenience, safety and security for travelers from North Luzon,” he said.
“Since Day One, President Rodrigo Duterte has encouraged more carriers to utilize Clark airport, and with our more than 21 million potential passengers from our catchment population, we expect more flights via Clark in the months to come,” Cauguiran said.
CRK is looking to increase passenger traffic to as much as 1.5 million passengers by year-end, and its new terminal building project, spearheaded by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President and CEO Vivencio Dizon, is projected to be completed by the first quarter of 2020.
President Duterte’s infrastructure plan for Central Luzon includes the multi-billion peso Clark airport’s New Terminal Building Project and the commencement of a mass transit railway project that will connect commuters from Manila to Clark airport and the New Clark City in Tarlac.
The 106-kilometer railway project is planned for completion before the end of Duterte’s term and aims to cut the two-hour travel time from Manila to Clark to 55 minutes.
CRK at present has 130 weekly international flights and 114 weekly domestic flights, numbers expected to grow with the expansion of operations of carriers within the year.