Despite NPA attack, firm to continue airport workBy Inquirer Southern Luzon, Mar S. Arguelles
LEGAZPI CITY—Despite the huge damages it suffered, Sunwest Construction and Development Corp. (SCDC) on Sunday announced it would finish the construction of the Southern Luzon International Airport (SLIA) in Barangay Alobo, Daraga, and Albay.
Elizaldy Co, SCDC president, on Sunday said they were deeply saddened by the loss of over P100 million worth of equipment torched on Friday night by suspected New People’s Army (NPA) rebels but said it would not deter them from carrying out the multibillion peso private-public partnership project .
“When we accepted the contract to do the construction work of the airport, we did the same not only as a business venture but importantly, we want to contribute our share in uplifting the lives of our fellow Bicolanos by giving livelihood and pump priming the local economy,” Co said in a statement.
The burning of the company’s equipment was major loss to SCDC, not counting the trauma it caused to workers who were present when armed men barged on the SLIA site and burned down 18 heavy equipment at around 10 p.m. on Friday, Co said.
The rebels also attacked a nearby Army detachment and wounded two soldiers, identified as Private First Class Kristian Cornal and Pfc. Ryan Gapayao, in the exchange of gunfire.
Army Colonel Arthur Ang, commanding officer of the 901st Infantry Brigade, in a phone interview on Sunday said the motive of the burning was the failure of the construction firm to give in to the NPA’s demands for the so-called “revolutionary tax.”
“This is a desperate move by the NPA rebels because Sunwest will never concede to their extortion demands,” Ang said.
Co, however, declined to comment on the issue.
But Co also bared that so far, Sunwest has lost P200 million in investment due to alleged NPA atrocities at its circumferential road project in Catanduanes (P50 million), Bula-Rinconada road project (P50 million), Camalig (Albay) road project (P10 million) and the SLIA project (P100 million).
The SLIA is a P3.4-billion project funded by the national government located at a 400-hectare land in Alobo, Daraga town, some 10 kilometers from Legazpi City.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said P600 million was released this year to start the construction of roads leading to the airport site.
He said that the SLIA is critical in achieving the 650,000 tourist target for Albay, Sorsogon and Masbate by 2016.
With Legazpi being served by 11 flights, the Daraga airport is critical to avoid the 22-percent cancellation rate in 2011 due to bad weather while the existing airport cannot be fitted with an instrument landing system due to its proximity to Mt. Mayon and the city proper while sundown restriction curtails flight options.
“This incident will not move back the completion target date of end-2014 for the airport,” he said.