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Int’l airport in Bicol to open in December

/ 05:02 AM May 14, 2021

NEWEST GATEWAY The opening of Bicol International Airport in Daraga town, Albay province, by year-end is expected to boost economic and tourismactivities in the Bicol region, especially once travel restrictions are eased, according to transportation and local officials. —MARK ALVIC ESPLANA

DARAGA, ALBAY — Construction work at Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Barangay Alobo here is being fast-tracked as the Department of Transportation (DOTr) has set for December the opening of this newest gateway to the region.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, in a visit here on Thursday, said the airport terminal was about 92 percent completed and would be completed either in June or July while other facilities were 65 to 70 percent done and would be finished before December.

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The DOTr said the P4.5-billion airport project, which began construction in 2008, was initially scheduled for completion in 2015 but funding problems and the burning of construction equipment by suspected communist rebels had delayed its completion.

Funds were released in three tranches: P300 million in 2009; another P300 million in 2010 for road construction and site development; and P970 million in 2019 for the construction of a 2.1-kilometer runway.

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According to Tugade, the BIA opening will proceed even if the country is still dealing with the coronavirus pandemic.

“The operation of airports in times of pandemic is regulated by the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases) … it will balance the health protocols and the need to revive the economy. So the operation will continue,” Tugade said.

Albay Rep. Joey Salceda, who pushed for the project when he was governor of the province, welcomed Tugade’s promise to complete the project by December.

Salceda said “too many opportunities were lost” because of the delayed operation of BIA.

Once BIA opens, Legazpi City Domestic Airport, the main airport in Albay and the region’s busiest, will be closed.

Other airports in Bicol are operating in Naga City in Camarines Sur province, Masbate City in Masbate province and Virac in Catanduanes province.

BIA is expected to serve 1.4 million domestic travelers and about 700,000 foreign visitors, Salceda said.

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With vaccination against COVID-19 now underway, Salceda said local officials were hoping that the projected passenger traffic at BIA would be achieved by 2022, when most Filipinos would have been inoculated by then.

“The BIA is no ordinary airport because this is the only [international] airport south of Manila and this airport has the capacity of being the hub for any of the two airlines, be it Cebu Pacific or Philippine Airlines, because of [its] strategic location,” he said.

—MICHAEL B. JAUCIAN

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TAGS: BIA, Bicol, DoTr, international airport
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