AN INITIAL P300 million fund from the national government for the purchase of the land where the new Zamboanga City airport will be built is ready for release, Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar announced Tuesday. “The new airport is gaining ground, the city is awaiting downloading of P300 million first tranche for acquisition of lot,” Ms. Salazar said during her annual State of the City Address (SOCA). The site is located about 17 kilometers outside the congested city center, where the current Zamboanga International Airport is located. In Feb. 2018, during the city’s 81st charter day celebration, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III expressed support in moving the airport “to a new, more viable location.” The new airport, estimated to have a total cost of P9.9 billion, is planned as a public-private partnership project.

Meanwhile, Ms. Salazar called out the water and power utilities in her SOCA to improve service delivery as the city’s economy continues to develop and investors come in. She told electricity Crown Investment Holdings, Inc. to bring “better service and fast-track what was promised” when the city government supported the investment management contract that allowed the city to take over the operations of the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc. (Zamcelco). For water, the mayor reiterated her statement earlier this week that she wants the Zamboanga City Water District (ZCWD) to bring better service first before pushing for its proposed water rate increase. At the same time, Ms. Salazar assured ZCWD that the city government will assist in sourcing the funding requirements for the planned network improvement and expansion. The city government is undertaking several raw water supply projects such as an impounding dam. — MSJ