Erosion, resettlement pose risks to proposed Bukidnon airport

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/09 August) – Measures are needed to mitigate the risks posed by soil erosion and the presence of a resettlement site for informal settlers to the proposed airport in Don Carlos town in Bukidnon, an expert said Thursday.

Environmental planning consultant Grace Sapuay cited the heavy erosion at Maray-maray River in Barangay Maray-maray, the proposed site for the airport.

But Sapuay, who ended Thursday her four-day environmental impact assessment of the area clarified that this is not difficult to address and can be done during the construction phase. She said one solution is to plant vetiver grass to prevent further erosion.

Vetiver (Chrysopogon zizanioides) is a perennial grass native to India and grows up to 1.5 meters high, and its roots grow downward, two to four meters deep.

The site in Maray-maray used to be an airstrip of a Cojuangco firm during the Marcos era that was sequestered after the 1986 EDSA Revolt. Except for the runway, the rest of the 14-hectare property had been planted to sugarcane and other crops.

The air strip was part of the area subjected to agrarian reform which was subdivided equally among 14 groups of farmers.

Sapuay said that based on her social impact assessment, which is part of her coverage in the multi-discipline feasibility study, the informal settlers in the area should be resettled.

She added she could sense no resistance to the proposed airport project so far.

“Usually, residents in proposed airport sites welcome the development,” she said.

She said that after submitting their report on the feasibility study, which is due on Aug. 26, everything would rest on the Department of Transportation and Communication, the agency which commissioned her firm, Philippine Japan Airport Consultants Inc. and the University of the Philippines Planning and Development Research Foundation Inc. to do the study.

Sapuay handled the environmental component of the study, which she said is the last component of their report.

She said that earlier this year, the team’s transportation economist, airport planners, and electrical and civil engineers had already submitted their reports.

She added the site in Don Carlos “is the best in terms of landing, takeoff and terrain requirements.

Last April, Raul Glorioso, department manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines aerodrome engineering unit, told MindaNews the proposed project was still at the feasibility study stage expected to be finished this month.

Afterwards, he added, they will be ready with recommendations and fund sourcing.

Aside from Maray-maray, two other sites were initially considered for the airport – Barangay Cabangahan in Malaybalay and Barangay Dabongdabong in Valencia City.

Aside from the proposed airport, the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. has pushed for a Bukidnon special economic zone as “priorities” for the province, said Roderico Bioco, chamber president, in his report to the group’s fourth general membership meeting last month.

“Laguindingan (airport) is too far, even Davao (F. Bangoy International Airport),” he said, adding Bukidnon has no airport even if it has greater economic activities than the cities of Ozamiz and Pagadian, which have airports of their own.

There is no information yet on when the actual construction of the airport would start.

The Bukidnon provincial board passed a resolution in 2008 to build an airport in Maray-maray.

On Nov. 30 2010, in Malacanang, President Benigno Aquino III told Mindanao officials there is a need for an airport “more central in Mindanao.”

“I noticed in the map earlier presented, that all of the airports in Mindanao—the domestic or international—are all located in the coasts. That doesn’t make tremendous sense to me, and I will be directing the director general of NEDA to study the feasibility and the placement of an airport more central in Mindanao so that distances to and from various areas will make more economic sense,” he said.

Aquino said there might be tension “as to where to actually site this central airport.”

But he added that “if you cooperate with each other, that would be a reality sooner rather than later.” (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)