Laguindingan Airport opening: April 30 or June 15?

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/18 April) —  Two days after Manila-based news organizations reported about it, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) in Northern Mindanao has yet to receive an official order from Malacanang allegedly postponing the opening of the Laguindingan Airport from April 30 to June 15.

“As of today, the postponement of the opening is still unofficial until we receive the official order,” CAAP Northern Mindanao director Moh’D Naga Rascal told a press conference at the office of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) on Thursday morning.

Rascal said neither the Department of Transportation and Communication nor Malacanang has furnished the CAAP regional office with the official order.

Rascal, like the rest of the public in Cagayan de Oro, only learned about the alleged postponement when the ABS-CBN website and other Manila-based news websites published the story last Tuesday afternoon.

The opening of the Laguindingan Airport has become a major issue among traders in Cagayan de Oro because of its serious ramifications on the local economy.

The order, published in the Official Gazette of the Malacanang reads: “The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) today announced that it has decided to push back the transfer the gateway to Northern Mindanao from the old Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro to the new P7.8 billion Laguindingan Airport by one-and-a-half months to June 15, 2013, in order to avoid the disrupting passengers’ travel plans over the summer.”

The Malacanang order said representatives of airline companies have told them that they “were encountering difficulties in reaching a substantial number of passengers who had already purchased tickets for flights in April and May.”

“The postponement will give the airlines ample time to inform their customers of their new flight schedules at Laguindingan Airport. This will lessen the possibility of disrupting travel plans and causing inconvenience to the riding public,” the order said.

Rascal said around 15 daily flights to Cagayan de Oro will be scrapped once the operations will be transferred to Laguindingan Airport which has no radar or Instrument Landing System (ILS) installed yet. He said construction of the ILS and radar system in the new airport will be finished next year.

Because there is no ILS and radar system at the new airport, flight operations will be limited from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., he said.

Presently, the old Lumbia Airport handles 28 passenger flights daily and handles more than 2,000 passengers a day.

Local traders have aired their opposition in several paid advertisements in national newspapers and have threatened to put up placards at the airport site to protest its opening.

Rudy Menes, regional director of the Northern Mindanao Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the local traders have decided to resort to publishing their opposition, claiming DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya ignored their representation.

“He did not even meet us and several  resolutions that we made were left unanswered. He just went on with the planned opening of the airport,” Menes said.

Menes said the local traders are also concerned on the cargo handling capability of the new airport aside from the issues of safety that they have raised. (Froilan Gallardo/MindaNews)