Salceda thanks Duterte, Tugade as Bicol Int’l Airport nears completion

DARAGA, Albay – The P4.7 billion Bicol International Airport (BIA) here now nears completion and Albay Second District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda has thanked President Duterte and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade for the coming realization of his dream and vision. closer than any administration” to completing

Salceda, House Ways and Means Committee chair who initiated the project which started over a decade ago, said the BIA, situated in Barangay Alobo, this town has been “a longstanding dream of the people of Albay and Bicolandia in achieving its full tourism potential, reducing transport costs, easing the travel of OFWs,” and “to making Albay as the country’s Pacific gateway.”

Tugade, who led the ‘test commercial flight’ on the facility with engineers and safety officer safety personnel of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) last July 30, said the airport will be fully operational by the end of 2022.

The BIA will technically be capable of day operations by October 7 and will be night-rated by November 4, 2021. It is expected to listed in the International Civil Aviation Organization in the same month, and will be capable of international flights six months or so thereafter.

Salceda said “the opening of the BIA will serve as the biggest economic stimulus in our region as it will accommodate 3,000 passengers per day instead of merely 600 at the Legazpi Domestic Airport.” It has a projected to serve some two million passengers annually, a substantial number of them foreign tourists.

“We can also service the other provinces. The airport will certainly be an impetus to creating tourism alliances such as the Almasor, or the Albay-Masbate-Sorsogon grouping that I pioneered as chair of Bicol’s Regional Development Council,” he added.

During the July 30 “commercial flight test,” Tugade and 50 other passengers from NCR landed directly in the BIA”. CAAP conducted flight checks using Pilatus aircraft last July 27-28. In May, senior government officials made a series of site inspection of its facilities to ensure 24/7 construction work towards the year-end completion target.

The BIA has a 2.5-kilometer long and 45-meter wide runway. It has 17 buildings, including the 2-storey (3,680 sqm floor area) Passenger Terminal Building at its 148-hectare complex. Some 755 people were employed during its construction and about 1,100 permanent positions when it becomes fully operational. It will also create some 47,000 indirect jobs in trade, transport, tourism, and other sectors once the economy normalizes. 

Salceda said the airport facilities have been designed to be more typhoon resilient. The BIA is located on a plateau assessed as flood free, some 15 kilometers from Mt. Mayon. The present Legazpi Domestic Airport is 12 kilometers from the volcano.

The project was first seriously considered by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the urging of Salceda, and its pre-construction phases were fast-tracked during Salceda’s stint as Arroyo’s Presidential Chief of Staff.

“When all done, it will be the realization of a longstanding dream. We are very thankful to President Duterte and Secretary Tugade. And, of course to President Arroyo for getting this project started in the first place, and President Aquino for his efforts to work on the project,” Salceda added. The project has been certified a priority under the “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has assured Salceda the BIA will be operational by the end of 2022. With an unimpeded view of Mt. Mayon and a panoramic view of Metro Legaspi, the airport is dubbed as the “country’s most scenic gateway.”

Tugade and Salceda also conducted an inspection of the airport’s facilities shortly after the test commercial flight landing.

The BIA started pre-construction works in 2008. “The airport will actually be operational by October, and will be receiving international flights by May 2022, because we will register it in the International Civil Aviation Organization by November. Immediately after its opening, the Bicol region will be among the fastest growing regional economies in the country. I have no doubt about it,” Salceda said.

“We are already a tourism giant. Our bid is to make Albay the convention capital of the country, and this will boost that effort,” he added with emphasis.

Meanwhile, the two contractors of the airport project have committed to complete all civil works under their respective contracts by 30 August 2021. As of 28 July 2021, the BIA’s construction accomplishment rate was at 89% covering Packages 2A and 2B of the project.

Package 2A is already 96% accomplished and is expected to be fully completed by 30 August 2021, subject to further necessary works after inspection by the DOTr and the CAAP. Included under Package 2A are the the airport’s air traffic control tower, administration building, crash fire rescue building, and cargo terminal building, among others.

Package 2B is at 86% completion. Included under it are the passenger terminal building (PTB) which is now 90.5% complete and is expected to be finished by 31 August 2021, and the extension of the airport’s runway which is now 75% finished and expected to be completed by 31 August 2021.