Daily flights to Cotabato to resume soon

COTABATO CITY (MindaNews/26 March) — After three months of only-four-days-a-week flights, daily flights to and from Cotabato airport will resume soon, Ishak Mastura, chair of the Regional Board of Investments in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) said.

Mastura told MindaNews that Assistant Secretary Lino Dhabi of the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) proposed at the meeting with Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), local officials and the business sector on Monday morning that daily flights will resume but the flight window for Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays will be from 12:40 noon to 4. p.m. only to allow for construction  work.

Since December last year, what used to be  daily flights to and from this city were cut to only four days a week – from Friday to Monday.

From Tuesday to Thursday, the airport is closed to allow work for the P55.6 million project on the widening of the taxiway and construction of a perimeter fence.

“We are hoping that (daily flights) will resume by next week. Philippine Airlines and  Cebu Pacific have to give the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) their schedules. The DOTC-CAAP said they will give the flight window through a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM),” said Mastura.

As agreed upon during the meeting, the NOTAM is to be issued “within the week” and airline companies – Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, are requested to give feedback within the week to the ARMM on the Tuesday to Thursday flights.

Mastura said what will happen is that the Friday to Monday flights will continue and on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, additional flights will be allowed between 12 noon and 4 p.m.

Construction work, he said, will be after 4 p.m. and mornings of Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Airport manager Mohammad Naga Rascal on March 18 told MindaNews that he gave the project engineer of the Vicente T. Lao Construction on March 10 to make sure the work is done because residents in Cotabato City and neighboring areas, particularly the business sector,  are incensed over the delay and want the resumption of daily flights soonest.

He clarified that the contractor has up to August to finish the project, not February 27 as earlier reported by MindaNews. What was supposed to have ended on February 27 was the three-day airport closure.

Several “urgent” resolutions had also been passed — by the business sector on February 24, the City Council of Cotabato on February 25 and the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) on March 6 – to ask the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), to resume the daily flights.

Since December,  passengers and cargo for air shipment on the days the airport are closed go through the airports in Davao City or General Santos City.

General Santos City is three hours away from Cotabato City while Davao City is five hours away. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)