GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/19 August) — City officials are seeking for the inclusion of the long-delayed rehabilitation of the city airport here in the national government’s infrastructure initiatives for next year.
In a resolution, the city council specifically asked the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Tuesday to prioritize the repair and renovation of the city airport under the 2015 Infrastructure Program.
It said the required repair and renovation works were detailed in a study conducted by a multisectoral task force earlier created for the development and improvement of the General Santos City International Airport.
City Councilor Arturo Cloma, chair of the council’s public works and infrastructure committee, said the task force had conducted a series of evaluations on the airport, specifically on the status of its existing facilities and basic operational requirements.
He said it established significant inadequacies at the airport, specifically with its deteriorating terminal building and other basic amenities of an international-standard facility.
The Regional Development Council (RDC) of Region 12, which supported the task force, noted in its development plan the need for the immediate upgrading and improvement of the city airport.
“Despite being categorized as an international airport, the General Santos Airport still lacks facilities to make it at par with international standards,” it said.
The council specifically cited that passengers presently have to deal with a lot of inconvenience in boarding and disembarking from the airplane and walk some length under the heat of the sun.
It said that even the trolleys, which are supposed to be a necessity for moving luggage, are used by the passengers for a fee.
“The airport needs a jet bridge, an enclosed, movable connector which extends from the airport terminal gate to the airplane that will allow passengers to board and disembark without having to go outside,” the RDC-12 said.
Trolleys and other airport facilities should be made available for free considering that passengers already pay terminal fees,” the council said.
Cloma said the council, after comprehensive deliberations in committee and plenary sessions, deemed it necessary to endorse the findings and recommendations of the task force, which was assisted by the Socsksargen Area Development Project’s management unit.
“In order to address the long-time clamor of the general public for the timely or speedy implementation of repair and renovation of the city international airport, it is highly necessary to give it a special priority through the strong support and facilitation of the DOTC and the DBM,” he said.
The General Santos City International Airport, which is classified by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) as an alternate international airport, mainly serves the air transport requirements of the greater part of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen region.
The region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.
In its report to the RDC-12, CAAP said the rehabilitation of the airport is currently ongoing, especially with the upgrading of its fire fighting facilities, expansion of the vehicle parking area as well as the procurement and installation of a passenger bridge, additional carousels and x-ray machine.
It said the construction of the airport’s perimeter fence worth P35.801 million, which started in 2012, was completed last year.
CAAP has set aside around P25 million this year for the expansion of the city airport’s existing terminal building and another P30 million for installation of additional baggage conveyor or carousel in its arrival area.
These projects are already in the pipeline and due for implementation before the end of the year, it said.
Arturo Valero, acting RDC-12 chair, said a technical working group was earlier convened by CAAP for the proposed development of the airport into an aerotropolis.
He described an aerotropolis as “a new type of urban development with aviation-intensive businesses and related enterprises, and is expected to offer speedy connectivity to passengers.”
He said the draft master plan for the development of the airport into an aerotropolis is currently “in the process of legitimization.”
Valero, who is the regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority, said the fund sourcing is currently ongoing for the priority projects that were identified in the plan, which focuses on the development of a P 1.7 billion airport terminal building. (MindaNews)