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May 1, 2016

May 1, 2016

 
 

Dear Members and Friends:

Free Villa Nights

It has recently been called to my attention that there has been a lot of confusion regarding the assignability of free villa nights of members. While our contractual documents, including the Members Handbook, make it clear that members can only assign their free villa nights to their spouse, descendants and ascendants, in fact the Balesin staff has not been following this rule and has been allowing the assignment of free villa nights to anyone. It is clear, however, that this mistake has been committed by our staff and in fact, has become the practice.

I have personally done a thorough investigation of this confusion and am pleased to inform our members that the rule on the assignment of free villa nights of members is hereby amended as follows:

Members may assign their free villa nights to others, provided that the assignment is permitted only during non-peak periods, and provided further, that as is clearly and consistently applied, the member must accompany the guest to whom he is assigning his free villa nights. For peak periods, the free villa nights may only be assigned to the member’s spouse, his descendants and ascendants. This amended rule will be effective from May 1, 2016 but not retroactively.


ATR 72-500

I am also delighted to inform you that at long last, our 68-passenger ATR 72-500 has been granted all the regulatory permits and can now fly on a regular schedule. This will eliminate the need for us to charter aircraft from other carriers, which has in the past created much confusion, including cancellation of flights. Taking into account our additional existing aircraft: the Jetstream 32 (19 passengers), and two Cessna Grand Caravans (9 passengers each), we now have the capacity to fly a total of over 300 members and guests per day.

Having said that, I do not wish to downplay the critical situation ­­­­on all flights from Manila to Balesin and back, which will continue to be subject to the slotting permits from CAAP. As you know, this problem is expected to worsen before it gets better, and in fact may take a few years to solve. In an effort to alleviate these problems which are beyond our control, we are doing the following:


Balesin Hangar

We are building our own hangar on Balesin Island for the ATR 72. This project will be completed this month as we are fast-tracking it. In addition to avoiding the undesirable situation of a non-hangared aircraft at NAIA, we will be able to maintain the mint condition of our ATR 72 by hangaring it at Balesin. To the few who have now flown the ATR 72, you would have noticed the excellent condition of our plane, and can even smell the new leather seats and the new paint of the aircraft.

Thus, we can base the ATR 72 in Balesin before the end of the month and thereafter, the first flight will be from Balesin to Manila and then the return flight will be from Manila to Balesin. This schedule hopefully will allow us to maintain as much as four round trip flights per day, depending of course on the reservations and more importantly, the CAAP slotting bottleneck.


Clark Facilities

We are also trying to expedite our Clark operation. We are now on the final stages of the contractual arrangements with the Clark Development Corporation and will soon be able to fly out of Clark for those of our members and friends who live in the Northern part of Manila and in Central Luzon. The advantage of Clark is that we can fly in and out at any time because Clark is obviously not congested, and there are no slotting requirements.


Night Flights

We have also decided to fast-track our acquisition of runway lights, together with the attendant equipment to permit Balesin to accept inbound and outbound night flights. Despite the fact that this is a rather expensive proposition, we believe that night flights would be a very effective and welcome solution to our aviation problems, as the availability of slots for the nighttime hours are much easier to organize and in fact, may be welcomed by our members who can fly to Balesin on Friday nights and return on Sunday nights.

I wish to caution you, however, that this project will require very extensive regulatory processes, and may take a few months before we are able to implement it.


Patnanungan Island
(Balesin Gateway International Airport)

We continue to make good progress on this project and land acquisition should be completed in a few months. By September, we will complete our masterplan for the airport and the rest of the property, regulatory approvals obtained, and we can start moving earth shortly thereafter.

While this project is aimed primarily at international members so that they can bypass the hassles of NAIA and fly directly to the island, it certainly will also benefit our local members and their guests because Patnanungan Island is only about 22 nautical miles from Balesin, and on a fast ferry (as in the Hong Kong-Macao ferries), you can reach Balesin from Patnanungan in only about half an hour.

In closing, I hope that you, our members, will appreciate these tireless and continuous efforts that we are devoting to the aviation aspect, and despite the major expenses not only in acquiring the ATR 72 but also in the capital expenditures for the hangar, the runway lights, the Clark operations (totaling more than Php500 million), we have not only maintained our existing fares to and from Balesin and in fact have lowered it for members as of March 1, 2016.

We do understand the aggravation and frustration that have been inflicted on our members, but I hope and pray that you understand that these are circumstances all beyond our control and have been caused principally by the congestion at NAIA. We assure you that we are doing our best, in every possible way, to make travel to and from Balesin easier and less of a hassle for our members and their guests.




ROBERTO V. ONGPIN
Chairman