In the midst of the GenSan Tuna Festival celebrations last year, some business was also undertaken between representative officials of this city and that of Mabalacat in Pampanga up north. What was inked out in their meeting was a local sister-city agreement ran the gamut from local trade exchanges and encouragement of tourism between these two communities. And both of these aims could be realized quite quickly with the establishment of an air link between GenSan and Mabalacat via nearby Clark International Airport. For a time it was a matter of waiting until the direct flights could be finalized but this week, it finally happened. reports that this past Monday, February 3, the first commercial airline flight between General Santos and Clark was inaugurated. While the air travel operator in this case is none of the major carriers such as Philippine Airlines or Cebu Pacific, this makes for a very hopeful beginning. The GenSan-Clark flight in question is a charter aircraft, 50 seats in capacity, from MAG Travel and Tours. It will be operated by Leading Edge Air Services Corp. according to the City Economic Management and Cooperative Development Office head, Leonard Flores. The flight goes twice a week.

Flores is candid in the expectations that an alternative and more direct Luzon-Mindanao flight connection between Clark and GenSan would help increase the traffic of Luzon and overseas tourists coming to see the city and its neighboring areas while avoiding the massive crowds and air congestion of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). But he is also looking forward to seeing more Generals brave flying out of the Tuna Capital of the Philippines to check out the many sights and sounds of an international yet thankfully local destination in Clark Freeport Zone, which occupies an area between Mabalacat and Angeles City.

The GenSan-Mabalacat agreement that led to the air link with Clark was a co-development project by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), particularly in their Strengthening Urban Resilience for Growth with Equity (SURGE) initiative. Leonard Flores expressed thanks to USAID for their assistance in helping realize this, the first regular commercial air route for GenSan to another Philippine destination outside of usual places like Manila, Cebu and Iloilo.

Commercial flights between GenSan and Clark courtesy of MAG Travel will cost P3,500 per passenger, inclusive of check-in (10kg max) and hand-carried (7kg max) baggages. Flights from GenSan depart once in every Sunday and Tuesday.

Image courtesy of Business World

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