By Carmelito Q. Francisco and Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondents

Davao RDC plans new airport study

Posted on February 09, 2015

DAVAO CITY -- Even with the current airport coming in for a P40.57-billion upgrade this year under the national government’s public-private partnership program, Davao’s Regional Development Council (RDC) is planning for a second, bigger airport or a cluster of satellite airports.

Davao International Airport -- Carmencita A. Carillo
RDC officials, in a forum last week, said a feasibility study for new airport options is listed as a priority project this year, to evaluate potential locations and the timing of construction.

“We want to look into all possibilities,” said Davao del Norte Governor Rodolfo P. del Rosario, chair of the council.

Mr. del Rosario, the main backer of the new airport proposal, pointed out that future expansion for the existing Francisco Bangoy International Airport, located within a 217-hectare in the northern part of the city, would no longer be possible given the urban development in the surrounding area.

Under the preliminary proposal being pushed by Mr. del Rosario, a 1,000-hectare area for the new airport will have to be identified, with the Island Garden City of Samal as the primary target site.

The governor said Samal, the main tourist attraction of his province, has total of 30,000 hectares and it would be easy to allocate at least 1,000 hectares for the new airport.

For the option to develop satellite airports, one of the potential facilities that can be revived is the abandoned airport in Mati City, Davao Oriental, which was built in the 1970s and named Imelda Marcos Airport.

Mati Mayor Carlos Luis P. Rabat and Davao Oriental Governor Corazon N. Malanyaon have both proposed that the airport be re-developed to serve the expected increase in tourist arrivals following the declaration last year of Mount Hamiguitan Range Wildlife Sanctuary as a United Nations Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

The provincial government and other local units covered by Mt. Hamiguitan, with support from international funding agencies and national government agencies, have started implementing an eco-tourism development program in the area.

The RDC’s vice-chair, National Economic and Development Authority Regional Director Ma. Lourdes D. Lim, acknowledged that an increase in inbound passengers is expected from the Mt. Hamiguitan attraction.

“Growth is seen to be higher in 2015 for the region’s air transport industry given the major tourism-related activities this year, including the opening of the Mt. Hamiguitan Nature Park in Davao Oriental,” Ms. Lim said.

The Francisco Bangoy International Airport has exceeded its capacity of two million passengers as shown in the 2011 and 2013 data of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines-Davao. Its annual average growth rate was 10.56% in the last five years, handling 2,795,251 passengers in 2013.

“Three out of the six indicators for air transport exceeded the 2014 targets,” said Ms. Lim.

Among the six indicators are inbound and outbound cargo both for domestic and foreign destinations, outbound passengers, inbound passengers, inbound and outbound flights.

“If we don’t do anything (now), we might lose the growing market of passengers and cargo in the region,” Mr. del Rosario said.

The Davao international airport was upgraded more than 10 years ago, partly through a $41-million loan from the Asian Development Bank and $23-million loan from the European Investment Bank.

It was inaugurated in December 2003 with a new terminal building. The old terminal building, which has since been left unutilized, is being planned for renovation as a shopping and cultural center that will be connected to the new building.