By Tara Yap
ILOILO CITY – The Evelio B. Javier Airport in San Jose de Buenavista, Antique was re-opened to commercial flight, Sunday, with the maiden Philippine Airlines (PAL) flight between the province and Clark International Airport in Pampanga.
“Antique’s progress is unstoppable,” said Senator Loren Legarda, in a speech delivered for her by Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao.
The December 16 flight from Clark marked the first commercial flight in 12 years at the Evelio B. Javier Airport in San Jose de Buenavista, the provincial capital.
Cadiao earlier expressed optimism that Antique, which was previously one of the country’s poorest provinces, would soon be able to welcome more investors with the airport’s reopening.
She said this was largely due to Legarda’s initiative to press the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) into fast-tracking the renovation of the airport.
And for the Department of Tourism (DOT), the re-opening of the airport would provide faster, more efficient access to Antique’s beaches and other eco-tourism destinations.
“Antique has a booming tourism industry at present,” said Helen Catalbas, DOT regional director for Western Visayas.
PAL will have the San Jose de Buenavista-Clark flights every Sunday and Tuesday.
According to PAL Corporate Communications Vice President Jose Enrique Perez de Tagle, the new route will not only realize the long-time dream of Antiquenos to be able to fly directly from their province to Clark but also to Korea.
De Tagle said PAL Express would also allow residents to fly conveniently to Manila and to PAL’s 17 other domestic destinations like Cebu and Palawan through their growing hub in Clark.
“You may now fly from Clark to Seoul Incheon in South Korea also,” de Tagle said.
He said PAL, although it was only short-lived, had serviced Antique in the 1960s and 1970s.
Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary Manuel Antonio Tamayo, who spoke in behalf of Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, said the return of PAL to Antique was another historical milestone.
“After 12 years ago, the airport has returned to commercial operation,” Tamayo said.
With the flag-carrier now coming back to Antique, more locals may fly home more often, he added.
“Patronize the flight to sustain it,” he told the Antiqueños. (with reports from PNA)