Bicol solons thank PNoy, DOTC for fresh airport project fund

By , on January 1, 2015

President Benigno S. Aquino III delivers his speech during the Early Recovery Program Launch Program for Typhoon Ruby affected victims at the Provincial Capitol Gymnasium in Barangay Alang-alang, Borongan City, Eastern Samar on Monday (December 22, 2014). (Photo by PIA 8/ Malacañang Photo Bureau)
President Benigno S. Aquino III (Photo by PIA 8/ Malacañang Photo Bureau)

LIGAO CITY -– Bicol congressmen are thankful that the long-been stalled completion of the Southern Luzon International Airport (BIA) will soon be done.

“Thank you President Noynoy Aquino and Transportation and Communications Sec. Jun Abaya for the release of Php781 million from the general appropriation approved by Congress for the continued construction of the new airport,” Rep. Fernando Gonzalez said on Wednesday here.

The Bicol representatives in Congress are grateful that this vital project shall soon be completed after a long delay that has dragged on for years now, Gonzalez told the Philippine News Agency.

Gonzalez said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is set to complete the long-delayed airport infrastructure project initially with a tranche contract valued at Php780.9 million which is set for auction on January 21, 2015.

This new fund is for the third phase of the project, which involves works for power, sewer and chlorination facility and water utilities; construction of administration building housing the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) office, operations facility and control tower; and a separate cargo terminal building.

It will also include construction of a building for fire and rescue; a power house and maintenance building housing materials recovery facilities, water pump house and water tank, a chilled-water pump house for terminal air-conditioning; underground fuel storage; and guard houses.

A recent statement of the DOTC said phases one and two of the infrastructure project valued at Php2.2 billion released from 2009 to 2013 for the landside (terminal) and airside (runway and taxiway) developments are already 45-percent complete and is slated for completion by May of next year.

Phase four of the project valued at Php700 million for the passenger terminal building (PTB) is coming soon separate from the phase three contract package which will be implemented soon.

The fifth phase valued separately at more than Php500 million to cover lights, furnitures, fixtures, office equipment, X-rays and security equipment and finishing paints and touches for the PTB will follow, the DOTC said.

The last package for this airport consists of navigational and meteorological equipment — including the instrument landing system (ILS) equipment to support all-weather day and night airport operations valued at Php1.3 billion — and will come under the 2016 General Appropriation Act (GAA), which will be released before the end of Pres. Aquino’s term in June of the same year.

With all these, the SLIA, also called the New Legazpi Airport, as it will serve as relocation for the old and existing Legazpi Domestic Airport, will be completed and put into operations expectedly in 2017, according to the DOTC.

Presently ongoing in the project is the construction of 2.1-kilometer runway, which was started early this year through the Php979 million fund earmarked by the DOTC in late 2013 and whose start of implementation was delayed due to some project glitches.

The construction works are being done by Sunwest Construction Corp., owned by local businessman Elizalde Co, which was awarded the contract in October 2012 but was only able to obtain a notice to proceed in August 2013 due to some technical flaws in the bidding process questioned by losing bidders.

The fresh Php781-million fund brings to a total of around Php3 billion the amount that the government has poured into this project since it was started in 2009—starting with the release in July of the same year of Php85 million for the site acquisition from private landowners which was entrusted to Albay Gov. Joey Salceda.

An amount of Php970 million released to the project in three tranches followed—Php300 million, also in 2009, another Php300 million in 2010 and Php370 million in 2011– all for site development and construction of a more than one-kilometer concrete road linking the site to the national highway.

These sub-projects are already completed.

This new airport will be the most modern commercial aviation facility in Luzon, outside Metro Manila, given that it will serve as an alternative gateway which would decongest traffic at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila.

As for the travel demand market, the Department of Tourism said Bicol alone has 5.4 million people and Samar provinces that are close to Bicol than Cebu with 1.65 million for a total market of 7.1 million.

Hence, the SLIA will catapult the tourism and investment potentials of Bicol, especially Legazpi City that serves as anchor for modern business platforms and as a fulcrum for spatial integration of Albay and neighboring Catanduanes, Masbate and Sorsogon provinces down to Samar into one common economic market.

The new airport site in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, Albay, is deemed safe from the risks and threats entailed when the majestic Mayon Volcano erupts.

Over the last two decades, Mayon, whose perfect cone and spectacular eruptions are both tourist attractions, has regularly erupted once every three to five years.

This airport will serve Bicolanos with fresh hope of liberation from poverty, given the economic gains that it would bring in to the region such as more jobs, investments, local taxes and revenue receipts from tourists, among others, Gonzalez said.

For that, he said “we the 16 representatives of Bicol in Congress are also so thankful to PNoy and Sec. Abaya.”