Image courtesy Martyn Willes

The new airport – Laguindingan International Airport – under construction in barangay Moog, Laguindingan, is currently a scar on the landscape on the northern tip of Misamis Oriental. It is expected that this new airport will become a major hub for export of agricultural and trade products, and for the import of tourists to the areas around Cagayan De Oro and Iligan City.

As you fly North from Davao to Cebu you may see Laguindingan International Airport off the port wingtip (you have to sit in an “A” seat). The photograph accompanying this new airport news item was taken just a few weeks ago and shows the runway all but complete, with only the runway direction numbers missing.

The new airport’s 2.5 kilometer runway is reported to meet international standards for modern wide-bodies jets, even though it is apparently 300 meters shorter than the runway at Lumbia Airport, in Cagayan De Oro City, that it will replace. The fact that Laguindingan International Airport is on a promontory, only meters above sea level, means that it will be low-cloud-free for 99% of the year and the main runway has completely unobstructed landing approaches over the sea from both directions, which means that it can function as an international standard all-weather airport – low-cloud and obstructing mountains are the current challenges at Cagayan de Oro, Lumbia Airport, the second busiest airport in Mindanao after Davao International Airport.

In May, 2010, it was announced that the entire Laguindingan Airport Development Project (LADP) is more than 65% complete and is on schedule for completion in December, 2010; the first commercial flight operations are expected to begin in January, 2011. Hopefully by then some of the excavated ground will have had time to established some grass-cover and shrubs (and some perimeter trees perhaps?) to prevent the area developing into a dust bowl.

The Laguindingan Airport Development Project has been on the cards for more than a decade and its momentum now is reportedly a result of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s close cooperation with Korean investment interests. The main contractor is Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction (HHIC) and the loans for acquisition of the navigation facilities and equipment are from the Korean Export-Import (Kexim) Bank. Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction is known to many as the major locator in Subic Bay, where its factory has continued to churn out enormous cargo and tanker vessels in defiance of the recent global recession.

There is some confusion over the name of the new airport because, according to the LADP project manager, Engr. Della Capicenio, Laguindingan International Airport is not actually designed to be “international”. Even when complete it will lack many of the functional elements of an international airport, especially car park facilities, customs and immigration control screening facilities and certain security infrastructure. Engr. Capicenio asserts, Laguindingan International Airport is “a domestic trunkline airport” and should be correctly called “Laguindingan Airport”. However, enthusiasts point out that the missing elements would be easy to add at any time in the future, when finances are available. If the missing elements were added then Mindanao Island would have a total of four international airports: Francisco Bangoy International Airport, in Davao City; Zamboanga International Airport, in Zamboanga City; General Santos International Airport, in General Santos City; plus, Laguindingan International Airport.

It is planned that Laguindingan Airport will immediately replace Lumbia Airport, in Cagayan De Oro City, which will be retired. In the future it may also replace Maria Cristina Airport, in Iligan City, as Laguindingan’s all-weather capability and its ability to handle modern wide-bodied jets will make it more attractive to most airlines who operate routes into the vicinity. The only question unanswered at the time of writing is whether the new Laguindingan Airport will take the IATA designation (CGY) from Lumbia airport or whether it will acquire a new one.

Laguindingan Airport sits on a 4.17 square kilometer site in barangay Moog. More than 300 families were displaced before airport construction could begin and all have been given new homes, in nearby barangays, plus other compensation for their relocation. Laguindingan Airport is 46 kilometers from the existing Lumbia Airport, in Cagayan De Oro City.

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