MATI CITY, DAVAO ORIENTAL — Budget airline Cebu Pacific is interested in launching flights between Cebu and Mati City once the latter’s airport opens for commercial operations, according to Mati Mayor Michelle N. Rabat.
“Cebu Pacific ang nakakita ng (has seen the) potential ng ating (of our) Mati as a tourist destination,” she told the media on Thursday, noting that the carrier has expressed intent to serve the Cebu-Mati route.
Negotiations over land ownership issues on the airport’s site has started, said the mayor, whose clan is among those involved in the talks.
“We have yet to settle the issue of the land where the airport is built. I don’t want it to sound biased but it is owned by the Rabat-Rocamora, our families,” said Ms. Rabat, adding that “some documents” have gone missing.
The airport was built in the early 1980s under then Davao Oriental governor Francisco G. Rabat, the incumbent mayor’s father.
“We will try to settle that, to pacify the families (and tell them that there is a) commitment that eventually bibilhin yan (it will be paid for), but for now, allow us to develop so we can open it,” Ms. Rabat said.
She further explained that the national government, specifically the Department of Transportation, could not step in for rehabilitation if they do not have the pertinent documents on the project.
One of the main improvement works needed is an expansion of the existing 1,625-meter runway to accommodate bigger aircraft.
A P200-million fund from the national budget, through the Department of Tourism, has already been allocated for the runway.
Ms. Rabat said they are aiming to reach a settlement within the year, with support from the Davao Oriental provincial government.
“Hopefully we will be able to hit the target,at nakatutok din ang gobernador dito sa project na ito (the governor is also focusing on this project),” she said.
Gov. Nelson L. Dayanghirang earlier said the airport’s opening is one of his priorities to boost, not just tourism but the overall investment climate in the province.
“Both the provincial and the (Mati) city government believe that the reopening of the airport will bring more opportunities for the growth,” said Mr. Dayanghirang in an e-mail sent to BusinessWorld earlier this month.
Davao Oriental’s popular tourist destinations include the Dahican Beach in Mati, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Mt. Hamiguitan, and Aliwagwag Falls, among others.
Mr. Dayanghirang said the provincial government is also working on the construction of an inland resort as well as an 800-person capacity convention center. — Maya M. Padillo and Carmelito Q. Francisco