July 16, 2019 at 07:50 pm
Darwin G. Amojelar
The Civil Aeronautics Board said it is lifting the moratorium on charter flights to Kalibo and Caticlan airports subject to certain guidelines to preserve the environmental gains in the resort island of Boracay.
Under a new CAB resolution, carriers with scheduled flights will be allowed to maintain theirs without reduction for the rest of the International Air Transport Association summer season.
The airlines, however, are restricted from mounting additional flights.
Meanwhile, charter flights will again be allowed at Kalibo and Caticlan airports subject to conditions, including the filing of applications at least 30 days before the intended date of operation and the scheduling of operations on less congested days of the week as determined by the CAB.
The regulator said all air operators to Kalibo and Caticlan airports would not be allowed to use aircraft with more than a 200-seat capacity.
It said it would still monitor the extent of commercial air operations into Kalibo and Caticlan relative to the carrying capacity of Boracay Island for the purpose of reviewing and adjusting its guidelines.
The Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau of the Environment Department and the University of the Philippine-Los Baños determined in September 2018 that Boracay has a tourist-carrying capacity of 19,215 at any given time, or 6,405 arrivals a day based on an average three-day stay.
The CAB on June 10, 2019 ordered scheduled carriers to review their flight numbers for a possible scale-back and held charter applications in abeyance, after seeing more than an average of 7,000 daily passengers in April and May.
It said that in view of June arrivals data and trends in the past years, it determined that there was no reason to maintain the current flight restrictions.
Citing statistics from the Malay Tourism Office, the regulator saw a total of 189,444 tourists that entered Boracay in June, down from 222,330 in April and 221,138 in May. This translated into an average of 6,314 daily arrivals.
The annual trend in 2015 to 2017 suggests that this number may still go down, bottoming out in September, consistently the month with least visitor numbers representing an average decline of 44 percent from April peaks.
It could mean only around 4,200 tourists per day in September this year, irrespective of the mode of transportation taken.
Visitor arrivals are expected to recover until December, but only top off at 76 percent of the April average.