Laguindingan airport
FROM THE STANDS - Domini M. Torrevillas () - November 29, 2007 - 12:00am

Cynics do not recognize the earnest efforts of the Arroyo administration to push the economy to a competitive plane with other countries. They make it appear that President Macapagal Arroyo has not done anything good, and that everything bad — from the weather to suicides of desperate citizens — is her making. There are numerous infrastructure projects nationwide that have just been finished and are nearing completion which prove the critics wrong.

One of these is the Laguindingan Airport Development — a project being closely monitored by PMS Director General Cerge Remonde — which when completed in 2011, will rev up the economy, facilitate air travel, generate  considerable revenue, and promote commerce and tourism.

The facility is located in the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor in North Central Mindanao, a major growth area in Mindanao. This corridor airport service area covers the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and the island of Camiguin.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, beaming with pride about the facility being in his corridor, said that the idea for the project had been entertained since the time of President Corazon Aquino. But President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is the one that is making that dream a reality.

The former congressman recalled having invited President Arroyo to the 76th anniversary of the founding of his province in January 26 last year, and it was then that he realized how serious she was about getting the project rolling. The night before she had discussed the project with Department heads at the Pryce Hotel, and two weeks later she organized a Task Force that would look into all details — the master plan for the project, expropriation of properties, the access road, and compensation for small farmers to be displaced by the project. Said the governor: “The President was concerned that the farmers be properly compensated. She said no progress takes place unless we help the farmers.”

The airport feasibility study and master plan were made in 1991 by Louis Berger International with assistance from USAID, its purpose to meet the increasing and future aviation traffic demand on the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor.

The airport will replace the two current commercial airports in the region — the Cagayan de Oro (Lumbia) airport, eight kilometers from the central business district of Cagayan de Oro City, and the Iligan (Balo-i) airport, 17 kilometers from Iligan City.

Both airports have terrain restrictions that rule out both night flights and wide-body aircraft. Balo-i is limited to receiving turboprop aircraft only, and Lumbia cannot handle wide-body jets. Because of their elevation, flight cancellations have had to be made due to inclement weather; as a matter of fact, a number of accidents have occurred in the vicinity of Balo-i.

The Lumbia airport sits on an inland plateau at an elevation of 186 meters above mean sea level and covers an area of about 150 hectares. The key constraint in aircraft take-off performance is the high terrain of approximately 2,500 meters south of the airport.

 The Balo-i airport is also located on an island plateau at an elevation of 396 above mean sea level. Its being on a high elevation significantly affects air operations and caused several fatal air accidents around the airport. It can only  accommodate VFR (Visual Flight Rule) traffic, which requires airport closure when the cloud ceiling is lower than 300 meters above the ground, and horizontal visibility is less than 1.5 kilometers.

The project costs P7.853 billion or US$167.09 million, and is funded with loans from the Export-Import of Korea. Under construction is the four-hectare access road, and air navigation and support facilities and civil works will be bid out this year and the next.

The airport facility covers about 400 hectares, as opposed to the present 120 hectares. About 300 hectares have been acquired or donated, with Ayala Land Corporation donating 94 hectares. The project manager is a lady — Engr. Della Capecenio — who joined the Department of Transportation, the government agency primarily charged with implementing the project, in April 2006.

Della said the intention is “to have a safer airport with international standards. Aircraft will be able to land easily, as the runway is on a flat area, and as its elevation is lower, and near the sea, airplanes making landings will not be bothered by poor visibility caused by fog.” She added that while the airport is not planned for international flights, it will  be able to accommodate international flights in cases of emergency.

Laguindingan will accommodate 16 flights daily, and cater to 1.2 million passengers as opposed to the current eight flights and 600 passenger load.

Della took our group, including Director Dominga “Ming” Flores, head of the PMS Project Monitoring Office, Leah T. Baliong, PMS staff officer, and Saeed A. Daof, chairman of the Southern Philippines Development Authority (SPDA), to the 4-kilometer, eight-lane, P188-million worth access road leading to the airport.

 We also visited the resettlement site, where some of the 500 families that have been displaced by the project, have been moved. They live in small, brightly-painted houses. Those who have not yet moved to the site have received compensation for their lands, structures and improvements.

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At the provincial capitol, Governor Oscar Moreno told us the impact of the Laguindingan airport in terms of business activity, tourism and “long-term directions” is “tremendous, only the imagination limits us in assessing how much benefits the project redound to the people” living in the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor.

*     *     *

My e-mail:dominimt2000@yahoo.com

AIRPORT BALO PLACE PROJECT
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