Vacationers or "balikbayans" from the United States started arriving in Cebu City to attend the Sinulog Festival activities this week and the Sinulog Grand Parade on Sunday, January 15.
The Department of Tourism (DOT) 7 officially welcomed them at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) in Lapu-Lapu City.
Nine returning overseas Filipinos first arrived past 8:30 a.m. Wednesday at the MCIA through a connecting flight from Manila together with other domestic passengers.
Flight PR 2845 of Philippine Airlines left Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday.
The passengers were greeted at the arrival area by a four-man rondalla playing the Sinulog theme while usherettes clad in colorful Filipiniana dresses adorned them with souvenir necklaces.
Dancers in bright-colored costumes danced to the Sinulog beat outside the airport to entertain those who were waiting for the balikbayans and fetched them from the airport.
The DOT 7 and the Balik Cebu committee also welcomed balikbayans from the US via Eva Air and Cathay Pacific connecting flights at 10:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m, respectively.
The welcome ceremony is part of the Balik Cebu program, an initiative that was launched in 2002 to encourage more overseas Cebuanos to come home during Sinulog week.
The bulk of the balikbayans are set to arrive in time for the festival. A chartered flight direct from Los Angeles with 300 balikbayans will arrive at MCIA.
Some 500 balikbayans will be treated to a barrio fiesta welcome dinner on Thursday evening at the Ayala Terraces in Cebu City where they will enjoy performances by Cebuano entertainers.
More domestic flights expected in Dumaguete in 2017
More domestic flights are expected in Dumaguete City this year with the permanent extended hours of operation at the Dumaguete-Sibulan airport in Negros Oriental.
Mark Michael Diamaoden, OIC airport manager and head of the local office of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), on Wednesday said Cebu Pacific is looking at increasing their flights to Dumaguete.
Diamaoden said he learned of this recently in a talk with some Cebu Pacific officials.
Currently, two commercial airlines are plying the Dumaguete route, namely, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines Express.
The CAAP had approved last month the extension of the hours of operation of the Dumaguete airport from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., thus allowing night flights when necessary.
It can also now accommodate additional flights with the extended hours of operations, the airport OIC said.
Records at the local CAAP office showed that from January 1 to December 31, 2016, a total of 4,152 domestic flights, 4,331 general aviation flights and 104 military flights were recorded at the Dumaguete-Sibulan airport.
Diamaoden said domestic flights included the commercial airlines flying to and from Manila and also to and from Cebu, while general aviation flights included other aircraft like chartered fligths, flying school planes and even private helicopters.
Military flights included helicopters and other aircraft that had visited the airport in the past year, whether on training or in transit.
For the entire 2016, CAAP flight statistics showed a total of 545,171 domestic passengers, 623 general aviation passengers and two military passengers.
Diamaoden has also reiterated the need to immediately undertake the proposed lighting project of the airport’s vehicle parking space to provide security and safety to airport users especially at night or at daybreak. (PNA)EB/JFP/EDS