LEGAZPI CITY — With night vision capability, participants of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit may now land directly at the Legazpi City Domestic Airport anytime, after the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) upgraded its facilities.
A few months ago, Bicolano business tycoon Elizaldy S. Co asked the government to upgrade and put up a night vision facility at the Legazpi airport to accommodate more domestic and international flights to allow travelers to fly at night time with cheaper air fare.
Co’s plea was made during the first salvo of the Philippine Airlines international chartered flight from Xiamen, China, in February.
The series of international flights here was made possible through the efforts of Co, who personally negotiated with the Chinese government and tour operators, in partnership with the Department of Tourism Bicol led by Director Maria Nini Ong-Ravanilla.
Albay Governor Joey Salceda said that telecommunication giant Smart is now dismantling its tower to allow night flights here in preparation for the APEC summit, which opening salvo will be held at the Oriental Hotel here on December 8 and 9.
“Right now, Smart has started to dismantle the tower which would allow night flights in Legazpi in preparation for APEC. And it will also make international chartered flights to Legazpi and Albay cheaper and allow more domestic flights. A seaside approach to landing has already been registered and published by CAAP in ICAO last May and should be operational in time for APEC,” Salceda said.
He said he informed DOTC Sec. Peter Abaya that customs, immigration, quarantine and security are now in place for international flights and, in fact, has been operating quite efficiently under the Albay International Gateway with PAL and Cebu Pacific chartered flights from Xiamen, soon from Shanghai and Taipeh/Kaohsiung.
The government is upgrading the Legazpi City International Airport following the expected big influx of domestic and foreign tourists while the construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in neighboring Daraga town is underway.
The construction of the SLIA was pushed by the Regional Development Council (RDC) during the time of former governor now 2nd District Rep. Al Francis Bichara more than 20 years ago and pushed by Salceda.
It was a flagship project of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to boost the economic and tourism growth in the countryside and pursued by the Aquino administration.
But the construction has been delayed following the slow release of funds as well as terminal design.
Currently, the Php2.2-billion runway, taxiway, apron and perimeter fence was 39.2-percent complete as of August and the possible target completion will be in May 2015, according to Salceda.
Aside from sluggish release of funds, delays of terminal design inputs worth Php1.2 billion affected the construction.
“Based on their target terminal construction to start in January 2015 and completed by July 2017, another delay, but we agreed to do a partial opening by May 2016. Since the air side is already complete by May 2015, then the ability of the airport to admit international flights is an issue of customs, immigration, quarantine and security (CIQS),” Salceda said.
“I also reiterated that we need a new airport — bigger, with night landing and international standard since our tourism is growing rapidly from 8,700 foreign tourists in 2007 to 339,000 in 2013,leaping by 47 percent in 2012, 66 percent in 2013 and after a flat first quarter, another 52 percent growth in second quarter 2014 by 20 percent,” Salceda added.
The governor said the SLIA can start to operate to accommodate more international and domestic flights even with a partial opening of the terminal.