Salceda: BIA’s opening signals higher growth trajectory for Albay, Bicol Region

DARAGA, Albay – House Ways and Means Committee chair and Albay 2nd District Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda said the recent opening of the brand new Bicol International Airport (BIA) here signals a new direction for his province and the Bicol Region towards a stronger economy, and its role as the convention capital of the country.   

President Duterte presided over the BIA’s opening, initially for its domestic daytime flights. Its night time flights will take off November 7. The airport would be ready for international flights by May next year, after review by the International Civil Aviation Organization.  

”We are already a tourism giant. Our bid is to make Albay the convention capital of the country, and this will boost that effort,” said Salceda, BIA’s proponent, who saw the project through close to two decades of off-and-on construction under three administrations.

He said 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 existing Legazpi Domestic Airport,” and is projected to serve some two million passengers annually, many of them foreign tourists.

Salceda said the P4.7 billion BIA – the first international airport south of Manila – is a “long-standing dream of Albay and Bicol folks in realizing their region’s full tourism potential, reducing transport costs, easing the travel of OFWs, and in making Albay as the country’s Pacific gateway.”

He noted that Bicol’s long distance from Manila has long hindered the region’s development. Land travel between Manila and Legazpi City, Bicol’s regional center, normally takes 10 to 12 hours. The old Legaspi Domestic Airport lies is a flood prone area close to Mayon Volcano. 

The BIA, on the other hand, sits on top of a 148-hectare plateau far from the dangers posed by Mayon, but still with a full view of the iconic volcano. It has a 2,500-meter runway strip, equipped with night landing and take-off facilities, air traffic control tower, passenger and cargo terminal, contactless check-in booths, car park, fire station, among others.

Salceda’s ‘Quantum Leap to the Future’ program for his district focuses on sustainable development backed up by modern transport infrastructures. It includes the newly opened BIA, and his two other proposals now being undertaken; the Quezon-Bicol Expressway or Toll Road Five (TR5), and the PNR South Long Haul project.

The lawmaker who seeks a third congressional term has vowed to push through with the development plan for his district, — the capital district of the Bicol Region and the ‘nation’s gateway to the Pacific’ – to push its growth “faster than ever at any other time in its history.”                                                                          

He said the BIA opening will “spur economic activities and provide the Bicol Region access to foreign markets, foreign routes, and foreign airport management expertise. The BIA will be co-managed by the Aboitiz Infra-capital and the DAA, Inc., which manages the Dublin Airport, packaged along with the Panglao and Laguindingan airports.

The BIA has a catchment area of 5.4 million passengers in Bicol and 4.5 million in Region VIII, larger than 105 countries. It will be the 90th largest airport market in the world, comparable to those Israel, UAE, and Hungary.

“With this comes heavier volumes of passenger and commuter traffic, and greater demands for water, sanitation, and sewage services for Metro Legazpi, including neighboring Daraga. We must thus undertake a Metro Legazpi Urban Transport Network, which will necessarily involve East-West linkages in areas formerly bisected by the airport runway,” he said.

“With this comes heavier volumes of passenger and commuter traffic, and greater demands for water, sanitation, and sewage services for Metro Legazpi, including neighboring Daraga. We must thus undertake a Metro Legazpi Urban Transport Network, which will necessarily involve East-West linkages in areas formerly bisected by the airport runway,” he said.

Salceda also anticipates the completion of the new PNR South Long Haul Project that “necessitates new alignments for the railway route, such as a Metro Legazpi Urban Transport Network which should be put in place earlier.” He said the best choice is a Commuter Tramway, since it is cheap to construct and operate, and will not require additional right of way and may require only P75 million for rolling stocks.          

Next, he said is the Quezon-Bicol Expressway (TR5) which must be completed as the BIA begins accumulating international flight traffic, to complete Bicol’s role as the conduit for freight and overland travel between Eastern Visayas and the rest of Luzon, and with the expected operation of the South Long-Haul Project.                                                                                                                              The TR5 is a four-lane, 417-km toll road starting from the SLEX TR4 terminal point in Lucena City. It traverses Camarines Norte, Camarines Sur and Albay, and ends at Matnog Sorsogon. Another arterial Highway Alliance between Sorsogon and Albay will complement the TR5 and connect the BIA and the terminal point of the South Long-Haul Project with the ports of Pilar, Sorsogon City, and Matnog, he pointed out.