Bicol Int’l Airport to be completed in 3 years – President Duterte
By Johnny C. Nunez
DARAGA, Albay (Philippines News Agency) — President Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to finish the construction of the P4.7 billion Bicol International Airport (BIA) in three years, with fresh budgets and a decisive push, following years of agonizing delays.
Duterte led the groundbreaking rites for the BIA on Thursday in Barangay Alobo here, his first visit to Albay since becoming President, to assure local government officials, business leaders and residents, the BIA will be completed on target.
The project is seen as key to the long awaited economic growth of the province and the entire Bicol Region.
Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda, original proponent of the BIA, said the President’s speedy action has given a new boost to the project never before felt since its inception over a decade ago.
Thanking President Duterte for his “decisive action” on the BIA, Salceda said he now feels confident the international airport will sustain the gains of Albay tourism, attained during his term as governor, which posted an impressive record of 339,000 foreign tourist arrivals in 2015 from a measly 8,700 in 2007.
He praised Duterte as a “good man who genuinely cares for his people — his heart is in the right place, his guts and gut feel honed by years as local chief executive, which make him fit for the challenges of nation building.”
Together with the new Southline component of the North-South Railways Project, which was also approved recently by the Duterte cabinet, Salceda said he is “convinced foreign tourist arrivals (in his province) can triple to 1.2 million by 2025, and thus make Albay an economic powerhouse.”
During the recent big assembly of Bicol political leaders of the Federalismo Alyansa Bicol, the President endlessly referred to Salceda, as his long time friend and one of the brilliant economic minds of the country, who should be working instead in Malacanang.
Salceda has conceptualized and pushed the BIA project since 2005 under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, when he was still congressman of Albay’s 3rd district. He worked on it for nine years between 2007 and early part of 2016, as governor and chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council.
President Duterte, according to Salceda, was able to do in four months what the previous administration failed to do in three years: award Phase 2A, the Land-side component of the project worth P780 million; and bid out the passenger terminal building worth P1.8 billion.
The snail-paced implementation of the BIA project by the past Department of Transportation and Communication has so frustrated Salceda and compelled him to take what he referred to as “political action” during the May 2016 elections — to run as an independent candidate.
The BIA was approved in April 2005 by Arroyo, and was subsequently included in the Medium Term Development Plan. Its initial appropriation was made in 2006, when Salceda was chair of the House Appropriations Committee. The project was affirmed by the succeeding administration, but work on it slackened due to slow releases of funds.
Salceda worked with President Duterte’s economic managers from the start of the administration. As vice chair of the House Appropriations Committee, he pushed the administration’s 2017 budget for economic development.
The BIA’s Phase 2A includes 17 buildings and land-side facilities. Phase 2B covers the completion of its runway, apron, “two-stub taxiway,” and Passenger Terminal Building which were recently bidded out.
Salceda said Department of Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has promised him the BIA will have Passenger Boarding Bridges or tubes, two of which will initially be installed, each costing P105 million. The design can accommodate additional tubes in the future.
Tugade has also assured Salceda his department will shortly start working on the P271 billion North-South Railways Project’s Southline stretch from Manila to Legazpi. He committed in a recent Cabinet meeting that the Southline will be finished in four years. (PNA)