Del Monte airfield in Bukidnon eyed as municipal airport

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/02 March) – – The Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc. (BKCCII) is spearheading the proposal to use the Del Monte Airfield in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon as a municipal airport to boost tourism and development in the province, Roger Navarro, BKCCII executive director said.

Navarro said the airstrip, 1,400 meters long and 40 meters wide,  stands on land owned by the National Development Corporation (NDC) and leased to Del Monte Philippines, Inc.

He said the chamber is proposing that the airstrip be retained for use of small commercial  planes rather than being left idle or used for agricultural purposes.

“This is useful for tourism and development in the province,” he said.

Aerial View of Del Monte Airstrip, in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon File Photo courtesy of Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Aerial View of Del Monte Airstrip, in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon
File Photo courtesy of Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Navarro said the airstrip used to be operational until recently. He recalls that shortly after super typhoon Yolanda struck Tacloban and other parts of the Visayas, American missionary planes used the airstrip to ferry relief goods from Bukidnon.

Roderico Bioco, BKCCII chair, said they have passed a resolution to support the retention and development of the airstrip as a municipal airport.

He said they will ask the legislative bodies of Bukidnon province and Manolo Fortich town to adopt their resolution.

Bioco added that they will also ask the National Economic Development Authority- Regional Development Council to endorse their proposal to NDC (National Development Corporation) and CAAP (Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines).

In an e-mail, Navarro said they intend to write a letter to Transportation and Communication Asec. Lino H. Dabi, assistant secretary for Project Monitoring and Evaluation of DOTC, based on their discussions in Manila during the Cagayan de Oro investment forum last week.

He said they had a closed door meeting with Oro Chamber, Kaamulan Chamber, Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno; and representatives from USAID, DOTC, CAAP and DOT (Department of Tourism) for updates on the status of Laguindingan Airport.

The chamber had earlier backed the development of the Bukidnon Domestic Airport, and a site in Don Carlos town in the southern part of Bukidnon, has been selected by consultants of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines last year.

Navarro said they are proposing that both the Bukidnon airport in Don Carlos and the Manolo Fortich municipal airport, which are three hours apart, be built.

“That would be much welcome development in Bukidnon,” he added citing the three-hour travel time from Bukidnon to the nearest airport in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental.

Navarro said there is a possibility that the Manolo Fortich Municipal airport will be developed ahead of the domestic airport.

The municipal airport “could be a contender for the Bukidnon airport project since there is enough room to build a two-kilometer runway with adequate clearances,” he said.

But he clarified their support for the Manolo Fortich municipal airport is not a withdrawal of their endorsement for the Bukidnon Domestic Airport in Don Carlos.

Board member Clive Quiño, son of Manolo Fortich Mayor Rogelio Quiño, told MindaNews Saturday afternoon the plan has not been raised before the municipal council so far. But he noted that it will be a welcome development.

“This is a good addition to the local government’s recent campaign for investments,” he added.

He said passengers of small planes would also welcome the move, considering the distance between Manolo Fortich and Laguindingan Airport.

Navarro described the airstrip in Manolo Fortich as two-kilometers south of the town hall. He said it has a graveled grass strip, has a parking apron at midpoint and the runway is aligned on the north south direction. The approaches on both ends of the runway, he added, are clear by at least five kilometers from each direction.

He noted that Pulag and Gabuc hills, both about 2,000 feet above sea level are nearest to the airfield, which sits on a plateau at about, 1,850 feet above sea level.

The two hills, he added, straddle the original World War II airfield of the United States Army Air Corps under the US Armed Forces in the Far East) headed by Gen. Douglas Macarthur.

Navarro added that DMPI’s lease is due to expire soon. (Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)