CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/26 February) – Bowing to safety and logistical concerns raised by the local business community, President Benigno Aquino III is no longer keen on opening the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental this year, Gov. Oscar Moreno said Monday.
Moreno said Aquino will only meet with officials from Department of Transportation and Communication and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines after flying to Laguindingan to inspect the facility.
Local traders led by the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry had voiced their opposition to the opening of the airport in several resolutions passed last week and published in local newspapers.
Aquino was scheduled to arrive here Tuesday to spearhead the political rally of the administration’s senatorial bets at the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Center.
Moreno said Aquino heeded the calls of local business leaders not to open the airport after he was apprised of the safety concerns.
“There will be no compromise on safety. This airport should be opened fully equipped to deal with the incoming aircrafts,” the governor said.
Elpidio Paras, former president of Oro Chamber said they welcomed the news that the President was no longer keen on opening soon the Laguindingan Airport.
“That is good news. The government should finish the construction since it is already much delayed. What is one year of waiting?” Paras said.
The DOTC earlier announced that the much-delayed opening of the Laguindingan Airport should be done by April 2013 instead of waiting until November 2014.
The DOTC wanted to open earlier the airport to free up the general aviation from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s premier airport and make use of some 44 hectares of land being occupied by these families.
Once the Laguindingan Airport opens, the DOTC and the military will transfer the Philippine Air Force’s 15th Strike Wing from Sangley Point in Cavite to Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro.
With the Air Force vacating, the airport in Sangley Point will cater to general aviation, air charter, aviation training, and air cargo. Already, aircrafts ferrying marine products are using Sangley.
That was the DOTC plan until local traders in Cagayan de Oro protested the “premature opening” of Laguindingan Airport.
Paras said local traders raised concerns on flight safety at Laguindingan Airport after learning that it would open without an Instrument Landing System capability.
Without radar, Paras said the airport comptrollers and plane pilots will have to use Visual Flight Rules (VFR) raising the risk factors.
In their resolution, the Oro chamber cited that without appropriate navigational system, flights for Laguindingan Airport will be limited when there is sunlight while Lumbia Airport can handle air traffic even at night, thanks to its Instrument Landing System.
Presently, the old Lumbia Airport handles as much as 15 flights a day and is a major gateway for tourism, business and agricultural produce in Northern Mindanao.
Local traders also noted that the construction of a four-lane highway linking Laguindingan Airport to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities has yet to start.
Paras said the present highway network is filled with roadside markets, illegal vendors and motorcycles forcing vehicular traffic to slow down.
“It took me one hour to travel from Cagayan de Oro to Laguindingan Airport. Air travel from Laguindingan Airport to Manila takes only 75 minutes. What is the use of a new airport if all of its advantages are negated,” he said.
“Lumbia Airport is still the most attractive gateway as of now,” he added. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)