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2014 Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival to Push Through, Safety Concerns Raised

Hot Air balloons inflate during the 18th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Festival last 2013.

The Department of Tourism announced that it will be spearheading the conduct of the 2014 Philippine Hot Air Balloon Festival. This, despite the position of the Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (PIHABF) Organizing Committee, the organizers of the previous festivals, of canceling the 19th PIHABF this year to prepare for a bigger one in 2015.

The DOT-led festival will be held on April 10–13, 2014 at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga.

Tourism Secretary Ramon R. Jimenez, Jr. announced that the agency decided to take the lead role in organizing the 2014 hot air balloon festival. The secretary gave the marching orders for the regional tourism office to take the lead in organizing the event in coordination with Clark Development Corporation, Clark International Airport Corporation, and the 600th Air Base Wing of the Philippine Air Force.

According to the DOT, aside from hot air balloons and other air-sporting events, this year’s activity will also feature the best of the local government units in terms of tourism, cultural diversity, and heritage. The event will also include staged performances from Filipino bands, daily fireworks displays, and a cook-off competition by hotels and restaurants in Clark and the rest of Pampanga.

See IN COLOR: 18th PH International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta

Based on the DOT’s records of 2013, the only air-sporting event in the country drew to Clark more than 100,000 spectators spending a daily average of P2,500 for accommodation, transportation, food, and souvenir items. The DOT said that not holding the festival this year would cost equivalent to P500-M in lost revenues.

The DOT also said that part of the proceeds from the event will be donated to various charities and the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Leyte and Samar.

PIHABF Organizers Maintain Position, Emphasizes Safety Record

Hot air balloons glowing at night was an amazing sight that wowed thousands of spectators during the Hot Air Balloon Festival.

The PIHABF Organizing Committee announced November last year that the 2014 festival will be canceled.

PIHABF organizers issued a statement yesterday stating that it maintains its decision not to hold the 19th PIHABF this year, but instead, will prepare for a bigger event scheduled for February 12-15, 2015.

According to the organizers, PIHABF 2013, “would be a hard act to follow without allowing sufficient time to plan, prepare, and book new and interesting activities.”

The PIHABF organizers said that they “will not participate in the planning, organization or staging of the [2014] event” and  “disclaim any association with the organization or management of the said event.”

The organizers added that, “We believe that by suspending the 2014 Hot Air Balloon Fiesta, allowing our organizing committee more time to secure a suitable venue for the fiesta and investing more time in planning, securing sponsorships and implementing enhancements, we can offer our public spectators a truly safe and world-class event in 2015.”

The PIHABF organizers added that they “have worked hard to develop operational and safety procedures. With an admirable safety record, we have built trust with event participants and other valued partners. We value this reputation, built on a foundation of 20 years of experience.”

The PIHABF organizers “recognize that the balloon fiesta is an activity that the international aviation community looks forward to. Any untoward incident would impact on the good name of PIHABF organizers and damage the reputation of the Philippines.”

PIHABF organizers assured that they are already planning and preparing for a bigger and better 19th Philippine International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta in 2015.