Tugade counts on new Bicol airport to help in economic recovery

TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur P. Tugade is counting on the new Bicol International Airport, which is now 72.2% complete, to help boost the economy battered by the coronavirus pandemic. “It can’t be denied that the aviation sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. That’s why it is important that we finish the airport at the soonest possible time, as this will absolutely give the economy a boost. Gusto ko matapos ‘yan (I want the project finished) within the year,” Mr. Tugade said in a statement on Wednesday. The department said the airport is expected to serve two million passengers annually. The project covers the construction of landside facilities, a passenger terminal building, the extension of the runway and taxiway, as well as drainage and other site development works. The Tourism department and the Transportation department signed a memorandum of agreement in January last year to intensify infrastructure projects 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. — Arjay L. Balinbin

Cotabato Airport upgrade to benefit Bangsamoro image, economy — Transport minister

THE runway improvement project for the Cotabato Airport in Maguindanao, the main gateway to the Bangsamoro region, broke ground this week and is expected to be completed in 15 months. Transport and Communications Minister Dickson P. Hermoso of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) said it is crucial to improve the airport, also referred to as Awang Airport, as it serves as a key access point for both people and cargo.  “The airports and seaports are gateways, at dyan nagsisimula ang impression ng mga taong bumibisita sa (it gives the first impression on) BARMM. Apart from the impression, the airport itself serves as the platform for everyone — where you move people or transport goods,” Mr. Hermoso, a former military officer and assistant secretary of the peace office, said during Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony. The P124.4-million project funded under the national budget will be implemented by the Philippine Army’s Engineer Brigade. Lt. Gen. Corleto S. Vinluan, Jr., commander of the Western Mindanao Command that covers the BARMM, said the project will improve landing safety as well as boost economic activities. “I believe that once this airport is improved, it will create wider and speedy connections between provinces and cities, and will automatically stimulate vibrant economic activities… especially when the pandemic is over,” Mr. Vinluan said. — MSJ

Lanao del Norte rep proposes longer Bangsamoro transition period

A lawmaker on Wednesday proposed that next year’s scheduled elections in the Bangsamoro region be moved to 2028, longer than earlier proposals to postpone it to 2025. In a hearing on Wednesday, Lanao Del Norte 1st District Representative Mohamad Khalid Dimaporo said the longer transition period is needed to fully establish policies and programs in the new region. “I filed to move the elections not to 2025 but 2028,” he said in a joint hearing held by committees on electoral reforms, Muslim affairs, and peace.

Mr. Dimaporo noted that the transition period of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which started two years ago, has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic. “We will be changing (the national) administration in the 2022 elections and there are components of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro that may not be adapted and still need to be negotiated so we can fulfill the peace process. I would like to give the next administration some breathing room,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez