June 17, 2024

■  Jane B. Cadalig 

Ifugao Gov. Jerry Dalipog has asked stakeholders in the tourism industry to consider the possibility of opening airstrips in provinces in the Cordillera to help attract tourists to the region.

Dalipog made the request during the Cordillera Tourism Investment Forum held in Baguio City on April 2 and 3.

Addressing his request to the Department of Transportation and Philippine Airlines, Dalipog asked for the possibility of investing in airstrips in the provinces to accommodate small crafts, which are only possible in the Cordillera due to its mountainous terrain.

He also echoed the request of Tourism Promotions Board Chief Operating Officer Marie Venus Tan for the DOTR to reopen the Bagabag Airport in Nueva Vizcaya, which is the closest to one of the region’s prized tourist destinations, the Banaue Rice Terraces

Dalipog said the availability of air transportation to the provinces, even with small aircrafts, will help a lot in increasing tourist arrivals in the Cordillera.

He narrated an experience in which he invited potential travelers to an international tourism summit in the United Kingdom to visit Banaue, Ifugao and the first question he was asked was about the travel time from Metro Manila to Ifugao.

“When I told them it would take them eight hours via land travel to reach Banaue, they said it was not practical for them to spend long hours to travel by land after spending hours traveling from their country to Manila,” he said.

Tan said reopening the Bagabag Airstrip will not only open tourism opportunities for Ifugao, but also in destinations in other areas like those in Mountain Province.

“It could bring the rice terraces closer to (tourists coming from) the Visayas and Mindanao,” she said.

She asked if it was possible for PAL, which opened its Baguio to Cebu flights, to include Bagabag in its route.

PAL Regional Head of Philippine Sales Leonard Bryan Sansolis said they will consider the proposal in the future as they are still in the process of promoting the Baguio-Cebu flights to travelers from the south.

Sansolis said the current flights they have for the Baguio-Cebu route since they started operating in 2022 only achieve 50 percent of the load capacity.

“We cannot paint a rosy picture for our Baguio-Cebu flights yet, but (Bagabag route) is an opportunity that we can consider,” he said.