The private sector will actively lobby for the expansion of the congested Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental during the 28th Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) on September 12-14, 2019 at Iligan City.
“This will be one of the issues we will raise during the MinBizCon,” said Ma. Teresa R. Alegrio, regional governor for Region 10 (Northern Mindanao) of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI). “We have already prepared our position paper on the status of domestic airports in Mindanao and will raise this on the floor during the plenary session.”
A year ago, PCCI-10 passed a resolution requesting DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade to prioritize the development and expansion of Laguindingan Airport within the next five years (2019-2023).
The resolution noted that the original proposal to improve the capacity and operations of the Laguindingan airport included upgrading the facilities /equipments to be of international standards, specifically, the operation and maintenance (O&M) of the airport along with the development of associated infrastructure and facilities, and the installation of all required equipment to meet international standards. (please see sidebar story)
As a regional airport serving Northern Mindanao and its adjacent regions, the Laguindingan Airport has been serving six provinces, two highly urbanized cities and five component cities with an average of two million passengers annually for the last three (3) years.
“Laguindingan Airport has become an important logistic network for over 150 medium to large scale industries including four major thermal power plants, the Agus-Pulangi Hydroelectric Complex. 3 industrial parks, and emerging tourism destinations,” Alegrio noted.
Media reports recently disclosed that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is seeking an additional P100 million to start detailed engineering works and much needed repairs on the Laguindingan Airport as part of the P2.9 billion augmentation budget to fund its priority projects, including the development of four airports, the construction of the Pagasa Island port, and the implementation of the public utility vehicle modernization program.
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) originally allocated P400-million (M) for the terminal building expansion of the Laguindingan Airport, but this was reduced to P180-M, then again halved to P90-M, before being slashed altogether by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA).
However, the business sector lobbied strongly for the restoration of the reduced budget and the P90-M was eventually restored through a Congressional Initiative by Rep. Juliette Uy (2nd District, Misamis Oriental).
Sources at the DOTr said a portion of the P90-M would be used for the Detailed Engineering (DE) of the proposed expanded passenger terminal building. The bidding process for an independent consultant to undertake the DE is now being processed and the contract is expected to be awarded by the latter part of 2019.
The balance of the P90-M would used to rehabilitate dilapidated portions of the terminal building such as the comfort rooms.
Even if the original P90-M would already be used up, construction of the new PTB would still continue with the proviso the funds used for this purpose would be reimbursed to the national government by the winning bidder for the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project to develop and expand the Laguindingan Airport faculties.
”While we appreciate the 90M Congressional Initiative Fund restored by Rep. Juliette Uy, this amount is barely enough to refurbish the dilapidated areas including the poorly designed comfort rooms and malfunctioning elevators,” said Engr. Elpidio M. Paras, president of Promote Northmin Inc.
“Government should now fast track the entry of private sector companies to expand and improve all the facilities of Laguindingan so that it can already accommodate direct flights from regional and international destinations, including lengthening the runway to meet wide body jet aircraft,” he added.
Alegrio said the MinBizCon would seek a clarification from DOTr if the P100 million it is seeking for the Laguindingan Airport development in next year’s budget is the same item as the P90 million earlier committed as a congressional insertion by Rep. Uy.
When it started operations in 15 June 2013, air passenger traffic at the Cagayan de Oro Lumbia Airport that Laguindingan Airport was designed to replace had already exceeded the 1.6 million design capacity of the new passenger terminal building (PTB).
“To put it bluntly, the replacement airport was congested upon opening,” said a former DOTC official involved in its planning.
When the passenger traffic exceeded 2 million annual passengers last year, the need for a larger terminal that could accommodate the current and expected passenger volume over the medium term became urgent and critical.
On a year-on-year basis alone, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines ( CAAP) figures for the past 10 years show passenger traffic at the Cagayan de Oro Lumbia Airport increasing at an annual rate of 8.7% from 902,133 in 2008 to 2,079,683in 2018 (doubling passenger volume every 8.5 years.)
Recent growth in air cargo traffic was even more impressive, soaring 44% from 2017 to 25,366 metric tons (MT).
The 11% increase in the number of flights from 2017 to 2018 (17,478 aircraft takeoffs and landings) was mainly responsible for the meteoric rise in both passenger and cargo movements.
In a related development, DOTr Sec. Arthur Tugade announced last 15 July the proposed extension of the 2.1 kilometer runway to 2.4 or 2.5 kilometers is proceeding as planned.
The P250-M budget for this project is already included in the 2020 National Expenditure Plan (NEP), which Congress wants approved before the year end.
This was part of the Feasibility Study expansion proposal endorsed by the Regional Development Council for Region 10 (RDC-X) and approved by the NEDA Board in 2014.