DARAGA, Albay -- Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade has assured Bicolanos the Bicol International Airport (BIA), now under construction in Barangay Alobo here, would be completed in June 2020, and would be operational shortly after then.

Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said Tugade made the promise during a recent meeting at the Department of Transportation (DOTr) headquarters in Clark, Pampanga where a briefing was held on the status of the PHP4.8-billion BIA and other projects of the agency in the regions.

The completion of the airport project is seen to provide a strategic and huge boost to the country’s economy, particularly the tourism industry, as it is projected to unlock the vast potential of Southern Luzon especially the Bicol Region, with its wealth in tourism assets and attractions.

“You restored my faith in our future,” Salceda told Tugade following the latter’s assurance of the 2020 completion of BIA, which is hailed as the country’s “Most Scenic Gateway.”
During the Clark meeting, Salceda updated Tugade that Albay is No. 4 in domestic tourism arrivals, and would even further increase if its number is taken in total with the combined Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon traffic.

The accelerated completion of the BIA would further boost tourists’ flow to the region, he said.

The BIA project is fully funded and work on it is in full blast to meet the June 27, 2020 deadline for the terminal, and November 2, 2019 for the land-side facilities.

As of May 30 this year, the project is 57 percent completed.

During the briefing, Tugade also said that DOTr had already resolved several technical concerns that have delayed the project, among them “the works on the required four-meter deep embankment of 25-centimeter thickness per layer to ensure good compaction, and the relocation of the transmission towers of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines that could obstruct the runway approach.”

Strongly pushed by Salceda during his earlier stint in Congress, and later as Albay governor and Bicol Regional Development Council chairman for nine years, the BIA project started in 2005 but construction began only in 2009.

Hampered by several hitches and delays, Salceda said Tugade’s pledge shows the “executive decisiveness of the Duterte administration in delivering urgent development projects nationwide such as the BIA, a vital infrastructure which is crucial to country.”

The Albay lawmaker said the BIA is expected to play a major role in achieving a target potential of 20 million tourist arrivals annually when it starts operation.

In the first quarter of this year, the country posted a record high 7.6-percent growth, which was about 2.2 million arrivals.

Salceda further said “the role of the BIA will be huge since the Department of Tourism (DOT) has upped its campaign in bringing foreign ambassadors to the country’s globally known, yet less visited destinations.”
Tourists flying in via the BIA will land right at the heart of the Bicol region’s tourism hub, Albay province, home to the world’s iconic Mayon volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins, without travelling far from the airport to visit them, he pointed out.

DOT said the country’s tourism uptrend has been boosted primarily by “a lot of direct flights by our carriers, most specially the newly established routes with Japan and Australia.”
South Korea remains as the Philippines’ top source of foreign tourists, followed by China, the United States, Japan and Australia. (Johnny C. Nunez/PNA)