AirAsia pursues Mindanao expansion, defies extremist threat

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2017 07:11 AM

AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes speaks to ABS-CBN News on the sidelines of the launch of his memoir in Kuala Lumpur on Oct. 29, 2017. Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

KUALA LUMPUR - AirAsia's expansion to the southern Philippines will proceed, notwithstanding the threat from Islamic State-inspired extremists, its CEO told ABS-CBN News on Sunday.

Asia's largest budget carrier earlier announced plans to open flights between Davao City and the Malaysian capital starting in December, as it taps growing air traffic in the Philippines.

“You don’t ostracize societies, you engage them…When you cut people, when you say ‘We can’t fly there’ then you’re not helping the problem at all,” Fernandes said on the sidelines of his book launch here.

Fighting in Marawi "won’t change our opinion at all” about investing in the Philippines, he said.

The military on Oct. 23 ended 5-month-long combat operations against the ISIS flag-bearing Maute militants in Marawi, less than a week after President Rodrigo Duterte declared the city's "liberation."

The fighting has led around 1,100 people, mostly terror suspects, killed and prompted President Rodrigo Duterte to place the entire Mindanao under martial law.

The United Kingdom recently warned its citizens against traveling to Mindanao citing the threat of clashes between militant groups and state forces.