THE P4.8-billion Bicol International Airport will be ready “within the year,” the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said Wednesday, hedging on the long-delayed project’s original launch date of July.

In a phone message to BusinessWorld, Transportation Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope O. Libiran said July target is now up in the air as “We are still determining the soonest completion considering all factors.”

She said construction activity is being accelerated to “catch up” with delays imposed by the lockdown to achieve completion “within the year.”

In a statement, the DoTr added: “In an effort to complete the airport development project the soonest time, the construction works for the passenger terminal building and runway extension are in full swing.”

It said that as of May 25, the landside portion of the airport was 80% complete, while the passenger terminal building and runway extension components were 31% complete.

The DoTr has said the airport is expected to accommodate 2 million passengers annually.

At a briefing in Malacañang Tuesday, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said: “Kagustuhan po namin na lahat ng proyekto na nasa “Build, Build, Build” flagship projects in relation to the Department of Transportation ay matapos bago matapos ang termino ng ating pangulo. (“It is our desire to complete all transport-related “Build, Build, Build” flagship projects before our President’s term ends.”)

“Iyong “Build, Build, Build” projects, iyong flagship projects, kailangan huwag maantala, kailangang bigyang katuparan (“’Build, Build, Build’ flagship projects must not be delayed so we can deliver on our promises),” he added.

The Tourism department and the DoTr signed a memorandum of agreement in January to intensify infrastructure development that will support the development and promotion of tourism circuits across the country.

Both departments identified airport development programs as priorities in support of tourism development, including airports. — Arjay L. Balinbin