By Sarwell Q. Meniano, Correspondent

Airport in Tacloban will soon be closed to jets

Posted on April 06, 2015

TACLOBAN CITY -- The Daniel Z. Romualdez (DZR) Airport here will again be closed to jet aircraft from April 14 to 30 to catch up on delayed runway repair, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announced.

Typhoon Yolanda victims line up at the Tacloban airport to board an army cargo plane to bring them to Manila in this November 2013 photo. The airport’s runway will be repaired for sixteen days starting April 14, authorities said. -- AFP
The airport, which suffered heavy damages from typhoon Yolanda in 2013, will be limited to propeller-driven planes during that period as the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) will repave a 338-meter portion of the runway, CAAP Eastern Visayas Area Manager Antonio B. Alfonso said.

“We will limit the operation of the runway to 1,440 (meters), just enough for propeller-driven aircraft. This is to complete the long-term repair of the 2,138-meter runway,” Mr. Alfonso said. “We have a critical time frame that should be followed and the contractor has a commitment to finish the project on time. Given the favorable weather and more stable supply of paving materials, this will be completed in 16 days.”

The paving of another 300-meter portion at the northernmost part of the runway is also under way and scheduled for completion by April 13 after missing the early-March deadline due to logistical hurdles and shortage of paving materials supply.

From Sept. 3 to Dec. 23, 2014, the airport was closed to Airbuses due to massive repairs on the runway. Only turbo-propeller aircraft were allowed. Repaving runway was delayed due to unfavorable weather and shortage of construction materials.

The DoTC temporarily stopped the repair work twice to accommodate the influx of passengers for last year’s Christmas season and Pope Francis’s visit to Leyte last Jan. 17.

CAAP said April 14 to 30 is considered as a lean period by airlines serving the Manila-Tacloban route.

However, the president of the Tacloban Federation of Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jack Uy, said “there is no such thing as lean season” as far as the Tacloban DZR Airport is concerned since the facility is the gateway to the Eastern Visayas region.

“The limited operation will badly hurt our businesses. I can’t understand why they’re not able to complete the project within the schedule last year,” Mr. Uy said.

Department of Tourism Regional Director Karina Rosa S. Tiopes, for her part, also expressed disappointment over the airport’s limited operation as this will affect tourism activities in the region this summer.

Ms. Tiopes estimated that Eastern Visayas is bound to lose 1,183 daily tourists due to the runway repair.

“With the limited operations of the airport, we are also faced with limited air seats for incoming and outgoing passengers. Limited flights and schedules also make travel to the region inconvenient to both visitors and the traveling public,” she said.

The Tacloban DZR Airport has 14 inbound and 14 outbound flights daily from and to Manila or Cebu. Of the 14 aircraft used, 12 are Airbus jet planes and only two are turbo-prop planes.

Mr. Alfonso said completing repair work is necessary for the safety of travelers.

He also noted that CAAP’s revenue is also affected.

CAAP records show the agency’s Tacloban office collects an average of P200,000 daily from the airport terminal fee paid by passengers and P108,000 from airline operations.

With aircraft restrictions, the government stands to lose P153,000 daily from terminal fees and P74,000 from airline charges, which translates to a total of about P3.63 million in 16 days.