No happy landing for Aquino at Catarman airport: A highway runs through it

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CATARMAN, Northern Samar—President Benigno Aquino III discovered on Friday that it’s no fun to land on this town’s short and accident-prone runway, especially on board a Philippine Air Force C-130 Hercules cargo plane.

Mr. Aquino had a rough landing on Friday morning in this sleepy town, site of the first leg of his three-town swing through Northern Samar and Southern Leyte provinces intended to ensure a 12-0 win for his handpicked senatorial candidates.

Only a day after returning from Brunei, the President was already back on the campaign trail, but his eagerness to resume campaigning for Team PNoy was met with one minor air turbulence: the Marcos-era Fokker F28 presidential plane conked out during a scheduled trip from Dumaguete City to Cebu for a campaign rally last week.

So he had to fly in a C-130, which is built for maneuvering on Catarman’s perilous 1.6-kilometer runway.

He last boarded this Air Force workhorse when he brought back the remains of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo from Masbate City to Naga City in August 2012.

‘Rocks are coming out’

“When I disembarked (from the plane), many wondered why I kept on staring at the pavement. I told them, ‘look, the pavement is almost gone and the rocks are coming out. A tarmac should be on level ground,’” said Mr. Aquino, recounting his initial impression of the airport during a rally at the Freedom Park here.

He recalled that the airport was actually “intersecting a highway,” meaning it is also used for other purposes (people and vehicles cross the runway since houses serve as the airport’s de facto perimeter fence).

Some airlines had already ceased plying the Manila-Catarman route as the number of passengers using the airport had dwindled through the years because of safety concerns.

 

State of disrepair

“Of course, a runway should be flat. There may come a time when tourists would start flocking to this place and they would find it incredulous that the runway is littered with humps. That’s the end of our tourism program,” said Mr. Aquino.

The President learned from local officials that the runway has been in a state of disrepair for the last 40 years.

The President was also greeted with the unseemly sight of a dilapidated terminal in dire need of a fresh coat of paint and major renovations.

Security was also evidently lax.

Right then, the President decided to provide allocation for the rehabilitation of the terminal and the upgrading of the runway.

The transportation department has already bid out the P7.6-million Catarman Airport Development project, which consists of an asphalt overlay of 128 meters of the runway and the construction of 264-meter perimeter fence.

Time to buy new plane

Brig. Gen. Ramon Mateo Dizon, Presidential Security Group chief, agreed that although the C-130 was a safer alternative for landing and takeoff in shorter runways, he deemed it wise for the leader of Asia’s so-called “rising star” to rely on the services of a new plane.

“What we’re saying is it’s time to buy a new plane. As to what kind of plane, it’s up to the experts (at the Air Force),” said Dizon.

“I don’t want to preempt the Air Force. Their procurement process is not finished yet,” Dizon added.

At the Freedom Park, Mr. Aquino announced before a sea of yellow-clad Liberal Party supporters that the National Economic Development Authority (Neda), which he chairs, had already approved the Samar Pacific Coastal Road project that will connect Northern Samar and Eastern Samar.

‘Abortion road’

The Neda also assured funding for the 220-kilometer Samar road rehabilitation project that is presently under construction, including the so-called “abortion road” in Eastern Samar, an unpaved highway filled with large potholes.

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  • http://twitter.com/ZALZANZIBAR ALBERTO ZALAZAR

    Sus Ginoo…Ha ha ha !…propaganda talaga tuwing …”ELECTION”…the people of Catarman has been calling the attention of the Conressman,..Governor.. & Mayor for that Airport problem but no one cares,…ngayon ay may solusyon na ?….ha ha ha !

    • Romulus Fenandez

      tama ka haahahaha, 30%-50% ba naman kotong ng mag amang governor at congressman ano mapapala ng proyekto e di sub standard………

  • farmerpo

    Fix the airport first, then buy a plane. Visit us again soon Mr. President and see if the runways is not showing stones anymore.

  • http://www.yahoo.com/ Ciano Malandag

    hay naku! puro na lang pangako tuwing eleksyon…pagkatapos ng eleksyon wala na. kinalimutan na ang lahat!.tatlong taon ka ng nanunungkulan di mo pa alam? sus! kung di ka lang nangangampanya,di mo malaman yan! hala! pangakohan mo na sila!!! bakasakali magkatotoo!!!

  • Hey_Dudes

    The biggest discrepancy these mediocre officialdom keepers keep piling up is their building for themselves grandiose city halls, provincial halls, city and town plazuelas but gives very little priority on the more bigger infrastructures like airports and roads. I cannot think of when I have traveled back home not encountering potholes even in major cities. Yet, the country is trillion in debts with nothing to show for it except having boxers and beauty pageant candidates all paporms and no substance.

  • punto_lang

    Show to your constituents Mr. President your political will. Help these people.

  • Teresita Sy

    Neglected. Now show us you have the balls to fix a lot of these!

  • maxwellalvarez

    New plane? Get a helicopter. Problem solved.

  • Romulus Fenandez

    NORTHERN SAMAR SA KUKO NG MAG AMANG GOVERNOR AT CONGRESSMAN NA PAREHONG GAHAMAN! MINIMUM OF 30% KOTONG BAWAT PROYEKTO………………………

  • kismaytami

    And why the hell is he using government resources for non-official things like campaigning for his dogs?

  • ingbilat

    “samantala, si meyor, si gobernor, si kongreaseman at si senador ay yumayaman by serving the poor”! _ _ through a Manila based radio station, sent by a texter

  • billy gunner

    The president s forgetin sumthin. He is the president and shud be acting like one. Kelangan ba talaga nyang personal iindorso mga tao nya? He could have endorsed them but not actvly in such away na lumalabas mas inuuna pa nya kampanya kesa sa mas mahalagang bagay. At hindi ko rin maintindiha. Kung bakit kinokonsinti pa ito ng kAramihan dito!

    • Jose Laxa

      kinokpya natin ang ginagawa sa Singapore, USA, Japan at iba pa… ng kanilang prime minister at president.
      Dapat pagsabihan mo rin yung lider na nasa Singapore, USA, Japan at iba pa… o pagsabihan ang mga tao doon na sundin ang sinasabi mo.

  • billy gunner

    And to think that the incumbents in town are from LP.

  • speedstream2

    Where have all the concerned local, national officials and congressmen been through all these years? Were they wearing blinders that nobody noticed the sorry state of that runway? Or could it be that, like their counterparts all over the country, they simply don’t care because they are more concerned with themselves and their families rather than the millions of hardworking taxpayers? When will we ever learn?

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