MANILA, Dec. 20 — The Department of Tourism (DOT) and Philippine Airlines (PAL) formally launched the Philippine flag carrier’s new direct flights from Singapore to Cebu, a few hours President Rodrigo R. Duterte left for Manila following his two-day State Visit to the Lion City.

A fully-booked PAL PR 518 took its maiden flight from the Changi International Airport to Cebu at 2:45 a.m., with mostly Filipinos on board, who are taking the holiday break in the Philippines.

The DOT sealed the deal with PAL as part of its route development program and policy thrust of Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo to further develop and promote international gateways in the country.

Meanwhile, Tourism Secretary Wanda Teo led the send-off ceremony of the PAL CEB-SIN held Friday evening at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) with PAL President and COO Jaime Bautista and other airline and airport officials.

“The lifeblood of Philippine tourism is connectivity. We are an archipelago and most of the tourists can reach us only by air. That is why I consider initiatives like this as critical to the continuing development of our tourism market. We are opening more gateways and with it, wider access for visitors,” the tourism chief was quoted, ahead of the SIN-CEB flight’s arrival.

“Cebu is a premier city of Visayas. Its continuing fame as a destination is unquestioned. We now have the chance to make this not only a main tourist attraction—but also a major hub from which travelers can hop to as many of destinations in Visayas as possible,” Teo added, hoping this will be the start of many routes to come.

The new PAL SIN-CEB-SIN route is an addition to the growing number of international air access to the Philippines that includes Guangzhou-Kalibo, Hangzhou-Kalibo, Hangzhou-Cebu, Shanghai-Cebu, Shanghai-Kalibo, Nanjing-Cebu, and the soon-to-be-launched Vanilla Air’s Tokyo-Cebu direct flights, which the DOT under Tourism Secretary Teo’s leadership has brokered this year following President Duterte’s State Visit to Beijing, and Tokyo recently.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Antonio Morales hopes that this inaugural flight, which comes on the heels of President Duterte’s Singapore trip, “will further entice Singaporean citizens and permanent residents to visit the Philippines,” referring to the Philippine leader as an “effective tourism ambassador” with a strong following and appeal to many Singaporean masses, locals or expats alike.

The four-times-weekly SIN-CEB will be available Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, while the CEB-SIN on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Flight PR 518 will leave SIN at 2:45 a.m. and arrive in CEB at 6:40 a.m., while PR 517 will depart CEB at 10:00 p.m. and be in SIN by 1:45 a.m.

The national flag carrier, PAL, earlier announced its discounted roundtrip airfares from Cebu to Singapore and back at $130, with travel tax of $68, which can be used until end December this year for travel until mid-March 2017.

PAL joins Air Asia, Silk Air, Cebu Pacific, and Tiger Airways in serving Cebu to Singapore destination bringing the total number of flights from MCIA to Singapore to 31.

In a latest data from DOT, arrivals from Singapore accounted for over 133,000 tourists from January to September 2016 placing it on the pole position in ASEAN and seventh among the Philippines’ top source markets for international visitors, which contributes 2.99 percent to the total market share.(DOT)

20 December 2016