The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is considering Laguindingan Airport for future international traffic following the expected upswing in international tourists come 2011.

Doroteo A. Reyes II, Undersecretary for civil aviation, said the DOTC is looking at Cebu, Iloilo, Bacolod, Davao and Cagayan de Oro (Laguindingan) airports to pick up the slack for the anticipated growth in air passenger traffic, especially from abroad.

“Ang problema lang natin, maski matapos and airport na ito in 2011, the demand for exchanges of passengers will be very great,” Reyes noted following a site inspection of the Laguindingan Airport Development Project (LADP) July 3. “The next problem is tourism that’s why right now, the DOTC is in tandem with the Department of Tourism (DOT) to bring more passengers to this airport.”

The Regional Project Monitoring Committee of the Regional Development Council for Region X (RDC-X) reported that as of June 30, 2009, LADP is 47.92% accomplished, or around 10.26% ahead of schedule. In fact, the next meeting of the RDC-X has been scheduled at the Laguindingan Airport administrative building this September.

Reyes revealed that this early, the DOTC is already evaluating other points in the Philippines where international flights can be directed to decongest the present gateways of Manila and Cebu.

During the 76th meeting of RDC-X held November 16, 2007, Tourism Secretary Ace Durano committed to arrange direct flights from emerging tourist markets like Russia and China as soon as the Laguindingan Airport is commissioned for international flights.

The Laguindingan Airport was originally conceived as the anchor project of the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor (CIC) to eventually replace the Cagayan de Oro (Lumbia) Airport. The latter’s high elevation and terrain constraints precluded all weather operations and the use of higher capacity wide-body aircraft needed to service the growing domestic passenger traffic to and from Northern Mindanao.

Comparative data from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) show air passenger traffic through Lumbia Airport growing by a hefty 66% from 544,936 in 2004 to 902,671 in 2008 despite the same approximate number of flights.

This was attributed to the fielding of the Airbus A320 and A319 aircraft by Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) which enabled the competing carriers to move more passengers with lesser flights.

For the first quarter of 2009, air passenger traffic at Lumbia increased 32,901 or by 16% over the same period in 2008 to 242,731. The number of flights also increased 188 (+10%) after both PAL and CEB increased flight frequencies to accommodate the increasing passenger traffic.

Budget constraints have limited the first phase of the LADP to a 2.1 kilometer runway, though Reyes assured this is already big enough to accommodate the 302-passenger Airbus A330-300.

“Once we expand this runway to 2.5 or 3 kilometers we can already accommodate larger aircraft like the Boeing 747 due to the excellent approach from both east and west which will enable big aircraft to maximize the runway,” Reyes added.

The runway extension was endorsed by the RDC-X November 27, 2008 through Resolution No. 67.

The first phase of LADP will only develop 153 of its total 393 hectares, with provisions for future expansion, said LADP Project Manager Delia Capicenio.

“As promised to the President, we will be completing the runway and the major buildings by March 2010,” Capicenio said. Runway concreting is scheduled after the rainy season later this year, she added. A four-lane concrete access road links the LADP to the Iligan-Cagayan-Butuan Road (ICBR).

The P7.853 Billion LADP can handle all weather and night landing operations with its Instrument Landing System (ILS), VOR/DME, Meteorological Observing System, Precision Approach Lighting System, Precision Approach Path Indicators.

Its apron can handle two wide body aircraft at any one time and two air bridges would whisk arriving commercial passengers straight to the 7,184 sq. m. terminal building without exposing them to the weather. The terminal building has annual capacity of 1.2 million passengers while its parking area can accommodate 240 vehicles.

from Business Week Mindanao

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