LEGAZPI CITY: President Benigno Aquino 3rd gave the go signal to the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to expedite the construction of the P3.5-billion Bicol International Airport after Albay Gov. Joey Salceda expressed dismay over the delayed construction of the President’s flagship project here.
Salceda told The Manila Times that the order given by the President was for the construction of Bicol international airport to be finished before he steps down in 2016.
Salceda said that Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez told him that the President wants the P3.5-billion international airport project in Alobo, Daraga, Albay province to cater to the big influx of foreign tourists and rapid development of Bicol, specifically Legazpi City, as regional hub of trade and commerce.
“We will get one million tourists in 2017 should the Bicol International Airport be finished before 2016. This is a big boost to our economy and will create more jobs as more investment will be put up here,” Salceda said.
Salceda, concurrent Regional Development Council chairman, said that the P2.2 billion for the runway was allocated already. He, however, lamented that the airport construction has been delayed for four years despite the release of P729 million.
The P720 million was already awarded while the P1.3 billion balance from DOTC’s 2012 General Appropriations Act remained unutilized.
The Bicol International Airport is a flagship project of then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. But Aquino promised it as a priority project in Bicol during his presidential campaign in 2010.
Early this month, the Legazpi City Domestic Airport opened as International Gateway for Chartered Flights in preparation for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) ministerial meetings in December this year.
As the number of domestic and foreign tourists increased, the government also plans to put up night landing equipment to be operational this August.
“We will have night landing equipment by June in Legazpi Airport. Our airport can be opened for night landing by August. This is another milestone and timing for the upcoming APEC meetings,” Salceda said.
Following the launching of the International Gateway for Chartered Flights, the Spanish government put up a consulate office in Legazpi City to acquire better understanding of the views of Spanish people and their issues of interest here.
The Consulate for Bicol will facilitate greater communication with the Spanish Embassy and will give the Spanish people residing in Bicol a platform to suggest programs and access different services provided by the Spanish government, Maria Nini Ravanilla tourism regional director in Bicol explained.
Pilar Villanueva, consul general of Spain to the Philippines, personally installed the new consulate here with Carlo Buenaflor named as Spanish Honorary Consul to take leadership position for Bicol region.
“Spain and the province of Albay already share a deep and broad partnership, between our two governments and between our peoples. Finding opportunities to strengthen that partnership will be one of our most important priorities as consulate.
We are so excited to be here in Albay and look forward to deepening our understanding of your rich and diverse culture,” Villanueva said.
The consulate office here will conduct outreach, networking and other project partnership as it can handle different kinds of business, provide legal assistance to its citizens, help its citizens in certain emergencies, host trade delegations, and provide a wide range of other services.