TAWI-TAWI — Traveling from Cotabato City to this province and vice-versa is now made easier with the Philippine Airlines’ (PAL) launching of direct flights on Thursday, June 9.
This is PAL’s first ever route within the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, which is expected to boost the region’s economy as the route connects the mainland to the island provinces.
The service will operate twice weekly on Mondays and Thursdays, with Awang Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao (also known as Cotabato Airport) and Sanga-Sanga Airport in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi as gateways.
“Matagal na nating pinapangarap na magkaroon tayo ng direct flight from Cotabato to Tawi-Tawi,” said BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim, describing the travel between the two places as ‘expensive and laborious’.
During the inaugural flight, Ebrahim addressed the passengers before the plane departed at 7:30am.
“This [flight] signals [the end] of the long-time challenge of connectivity of Tawi-Tawi with the [BARMM] mainland and other parts of the country,” Ebrahim said.
“This inaugural flight is a simple step to make Mindanao a better place for all us, Muslims, Christians,
and Lumads,” he said.
On the other hand, PAL Express Acting President Rabbi Vincent Ang said the flight was a testament of what the Bangsamoro people is capable of.
“This is not a flight that made possible by PAL. The people of this region, the leaders of this region made this possible,” Ang said.
To recall, Minister Dickson Hermoso and Director-General Roslaine Macao-Maniri of the BARMM’s Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) initiated a meeting with PAL executives on November 4, 2021 in Manila. The executives included Senior Assistant Vice-President for Philippine Sales Harry Inoferio, Assistant Vice-President for Airport Services Mary Jane Go, and Vice-President for Security retired Lt. Gen. Caesar Ronnie Ordoyo.
According to MOTC, the opening of the first flight was initially scheduled on December 20, 2021, but it was affected by super typhoon Odette, COVID-19 Omicron variant surge, typhoon Agaton, and the election period.
“But through all of those intervening events, talks continued between MOTC and PAL and the latter remained committed to opening its first route entirely within BARMM, connecting the mainland and one of the island-provinces. The latest of these talks was last May 18, 2022,” MOTC said in a press release.
MOTC said it also coordinated closely with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) which is implementing a project to further develop the Sanga-Sanga Airport in several phases, including a new passenger terminal building by 2025. The ministry also requested that DOTr’s passenger terminal building project in Awang Airport be completed as soon as possible as it is already overdue.
Meanwhile, Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) Secretary Maria Belen Acosta commended everyone who contributed to the realization of such flight.
“Bago pa itong inauguration ay nagkaroon na ng series of workshops at planning sessions,” Acosta said.
Acosta hoped that the flight will spur economic activity in the region.
“Hopefully, it will pick up at maging everyday na yung flight dahil even before the direct flight, sobra sobra na yung demand for economic activity, ” she said.
As the inaugural flight arrived in Tawi-Tawi after an hour, it was welcomed with a traditional water canon salute. (Abdullah Matucan/BIO)