Duterte wants mothballed Cotabato airport to operate

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 3 Jan) – President Rodrigo Duterte is giving the operation of the mothballed airport project in M’lang, Cotabato province a new lease on life, officials said.

The mothballed airport at M’lang, Cotabato province. Satellite photo courtesy of Google

Cotabato Gov. Nancy Catamco requested Duterte’s intervention for the airport’s operation, saying it would further boost the economic and tourism potentials of the landlocked province.

“[The operation of the M’lang airport] would pave the way to a more brisk economic activity of the province, recognizing the need for fast transportation of agriculture products and improve trading engagements,” she said in a statement.

During the visit of President Duterte to quake-hit victims in M’lang early this week, he was briefed about the status of the mothballed airport facility, whose1.8-kilometer runway and terminal building were completed 10 years ago.

Duterte wanted the M’lang airport to operate and instructed his close aide, Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, to work out the opening of the facility, said Emmanuel Piñol, former Cotabato governor and agriculture secretary and now chair of the Mindanao Development Authority.

Go promised to personally oversee the completion and inauguration of the project before the Duterte administration steps down from power by mid-2022, Piñol said.

The M’lang airport, which was constructed starting in 2004, was a brainchild of Piñol.

When he was still the governor (1998 to 2007), Piñol said the provincial government acquired 62 hectares from the heirs of the late Don Tomas Buenaflor in Barangay Tawantawan, M’lang in 2003 for the airport project.

The Arroyo administration funded the construction of the airport.

“The airport operation could boost the economic growth of Region 12 where many agricultural products, including highly perishable fruits, come from,” Piñol said in a statement.

He said the airport project was mothballed during the nine-year term of then governor and now Vice Governor Emmylou Talino-Mendoza.

Talino-Mendoza cited missing documents as the reason behind the failure of the provincial government to turn over the 62-hectare property to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), according to Piñol.

Talino-Mendoza said that technical deficiency, and not politics, was behind the non-operation of the airport during her term.

Catamco said the provincial government will submit to the DOTr the necessary documents for the airport to operate.

Once operational, the airport in M’lang town would become the second airport to serve Region 12, after General Santos City, which is about three hours away by land travel.

The Awang airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), which is also about three hours away by car from M’lang, is already serving parts of Cotabato province and Cotabato City.

Cotabato City voted to join the BARMM during the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law in January 2019. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)