LAGUINDINGAN, Misamis Oriental (MindaNews/16 June) — Twenty nine passenger planes took off and landed at the new Laguindingan Airport on Saturday but passengers complained of traffic jam and the presence of barkers.
Mohammad Naga Rascal of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines here said “the planes’ landing and take off operations went without a snag” but acknowledged the problems of traffic jam and barkers soliciting passengers for taxi rides.
He said the first to land at the airport was a Cebu Pacific Airbus from Manila which arrived at 6:05 a.m. The last plane to arrive was also, a Cebu Pacific ATR 72-50 from Davao City, which later departed for Cebu City before 6 p.m.
In the old Lumbia airport which was equipped with navigational aids, flight frequency was 28 a day. However, on stormy days, most of the flights would be cancelled as visibility around the airport located near the mountains south of Cagayan de Oro, drops to zero.
It is this concern that made CAAP pursue the transfer from Lumbia to Laguindingan Airport which is located on a flat terrain near the shoreline in Misamis Oriental.
CAAP has implemented a “daylight operations only” — from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. — for the operations of Laguindingan Airport because it still has no Instrument Landing System (ILS), a navigational aid for planes.
It promised to install the ILS, VHF Omnidirectional Range Navigation (VOR); Meteorological Observing System; and Precision Lighting System (PALS) by May 2014.
Local businessmen led by the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Orochamber) feared they would incur huge financial losses because a limited daylight operations will result to fewer planes landing in Laguindingan Airport.
Orochamber president Efren Uy said they estimated only 14 planes will be able to land on the 12-hour opening in Laguindingan airport.
“All of the airlines managed to squeeze more flights to handle the passenger traffic for Laguindingan. It was business that dictated them to manage their operations,” Rascal said.
The P7.8 billion airport built by Hanjin Heavy Industries and Constuction of Korea dazzled incoming and departing passengers who were used to worn-out facilities of the old Lumbia airport.
“This is definitely better than Lumbia,” said Dr. Paulo Cabreros who traveled all the way from Iligan City to catch his flight for Manila last Saturday.
“The terminal is very clean and very modern. I hope they can maintain its cleanliness because I am impressed,” said Cagayan de Oro business executive Bobby Letaba who came on a Philippine Air Lines flight from Manila.
Jen Besere Ocsana, editor-in-chief of Super Balita tabloid who also came on the same plane liked the view of Macajalar Bay when they landed at the Laguindingan airport.
“The sea was so calm. It was nice to see the sea instead of the usual view of the mountains when we land in Lumbia Airport, Ocsana said.
Cabreros and some of the passengers also pointed to some things that CAAP can improve on in the next few days.
He said the terminal is not wi-fi connected — a must if Northern Mindanao wants to attract foreign tourists.
“I know wi-fi is not important but tourists will be looking for it,” Cabreros said.
Randy Casino, 28, who works as a guide in the Cagayan de Oro white water adventure, noticed there were no trash bins at the terminal lobby and even outside the airport facility.
“They should put garbage bins because where will the people throw their trash? They might also plant trees around the facility to make this a green airport,” he said.
Going to Laguindingan Airport is a bit of a problem as the Department of Public Works and Highways in Northern Mindanao has yet to finish the widening of the highway from Cagayan de Oro.
Repairs on a half-kilometer cement road have resulted to a kilometer –long pile up of vehicles between Alubijid and Laguindingan towns.
This resulted to a 30-minute delay, much to the dismay of the passengers from Cagayan de Oro. who were used to the proximity of Lumbia Airport.
Fe Judith, a retired government employee, said they left their house in Macabalan, Cagayan de Oro City a day earlier for fear they will miss their flight to Manila on Saturday.
Judith said they rode a bus from Bulua West Terminal last Friday and spent the night at the MORESCO dormitory in Laguindingan so they could be at the airport early Saturday morning. She said they spent P250 per person for a bed at the Moresco dormitory.
Barkers, a permanent fixture in Lumbia airport, are also present in Laguindingan airport, victimizing passengers with exorbitant taxi rates.
Cabreros said he had to shell out P150 for a taxi from the highway in Laguindingan to the airport—a distance of four kilometers.
Staff members of Xavier University Crusader student publication who were doing a story on the airport paid P500 for a taxi in Bulua, Cagayan de Oro to bring them to Laguindingan. They also paid the same rate in returning to Cagayan de Oro.
Mandangan Darimbang, regional director of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board said this situation happened because many passengers are not aware that there are many buses and vans fielded to service them.
“I know this is a problem and we will really settle this problem to get rid of these barkers,” Darimban said.
Darimbang said authorized coasters and aircon vans can ask for a promo fare of P199 per passenger for June and the regular fare of P250 effective in July.
He said a public hearing on the rates will be held in Cagayan de Oro and Iligan cities next month.
Darimbang said there are eight yellow-colored coasters from the company, Super Six, that charges P250 person for their rides; ten Toyota Grandia vans of the Laguindingan Airport Express, also charging P250 ride; and vans from Magnum Express.
He said Super 5, a major bus liner plying the Cagayan de Oro and Iligan route also has aircon vans waiting at the junction of the highway to the Airport. These vans charge P25 per person for the four-kilometer ride to the airport.
One of the owners of the vans plying the route said he fears the competition offered by the barkers and colorum taxis will affect their business.
“We have invested money to buy these vans and we paid for our routes. LTFRB should be doing something to protect us,” the owners said. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)