New airport, new worries
CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Build it and they will come, the government must have thought when it constructed the new airport in Laguindingan town in Misamis Oriental. Now, people are asking: “How and how much?”
Lynde Salgados, a sports journalist, shelled out at least P150 for a taxi when he went to the old Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City for his flight to Manila. He was scheduled to return on Saturday, but this time at the Laguindingan Airport, 55 kilometers away from the city.
Costing P7.9-billion, the airport started commercial operations on Saturday, three days after it was inaugurated by President Benigno Aquino.
Salgados’ concern was how much it would cost him to take a taxi from Laguindingan to the city.
Joshua Jaime Frias, a village chair, shared the sentiment. He will be going to the new airport to take the flight to Davao City on Saturday.
“Where can I find the ride going to the airport?” Frias said.
With more than 1,500 taxis plying the city route, getting to Laguindingan should not be a problem. The fare, however, is.
If a taxi charges P4.50 for every 350 meters, getting there would cost at least P850. “That’s more than my airfare going to Davao,” Frias said.
His Cagayan de Oro-Davao flight, booked a month ago, cost P600. If he takes a bus from Cagayan de Oro to Davao, it will cost him P575 for an eight-hour ride.
According to Mandangan Darimbang, director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board for Northern Mindanao, some taxi companies have signified their interest in operating at Laguindingan.
Jerry Manzano, of Mai-Mai Taxi, said his firm has applied for 50 franchises, but these were put on hold after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines required that taxis be fueled by liquefied petroleum gas.
Utility Vehicle Express vans were also set to ply the Laguindingan-Cagayan de Oro route and charge passengers P2 per kilometer. But Darimbang said there were already “promo” fares for as low as P60 for a one-way trip.
On Wednesday, Mayor-elect Oscar Moreno of Cagayan de Oro led the blessing of the eight vans of Cagayan de Oro Taxi Drivers and Operators Cooperative. The vans, he hoped, would serve the Laguindingan airport route.
Dr. Jeff Ponce of Bukidnon, on his Facebook wall, said the extra 55 km, from the 100-km travel from Bukidnon to Cagayan de Oro, would be a burden for a “frequent flier” like him.
“They should have allowed regular public vehicles to ply the route,” Ponce said, adding that shuttle services could be a cheaper alternative to taxis.
Nestor Abonitalla, a retired sanitary engineer with the city health office, said he hoped the airport would have its own “park and fly” system, just like in many airports. “It’s for that short trip where you can park your car and fly out,” Abonitalla said.
Darimbang suggested that plane passengers take the bus to Laguindingan town. From there, they can board vehicles traveling the 4.4-km road to the airport and pay only P8.
Many are still not convinced.
“Where will we put our cargo and luggage? Inside the van and cram it all together with the passengers?” one passenger said.
When Frias flew to Davao on a 3:45 p.m. flight, he left Cagayan de Oro for Laguindingan around 11 a.m., because of an ongoing road-widening project in Albuijid, the town before Laguindingan.
Darimbang estimated that without traffic, it would take only 45 minutes for a ride to Laguindingan, and an hour if one would be coming in from Iligan City.
Bata Hallasgo, who ships vegetables to Manila, said the lack of evening flights—the new airport still does not have runway lights and other navigational facilities—is a concern. “At night, the climate is cooler, it’s more viable to fly fresh goods in cooler temperatures,” he said.
Efren Uy, president of Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said shippers of seafood and flowers would bear the brunt of fewer flights due to the “sunrise to sunset operations.”
Mike Ignacio, of PhilExport Cagayan de Oro, said the group’s members would have to ship their products early in the morning. PhilExport-CDO has more than 150 businesses involved in the import-export business.