After 25 years, plane passenger tube will be available at GenSan airport

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 22 July) – Once the upgrading of the General Santos City Airport is done – which is now 96-percent completed – commercial airplane passengers and crew will no longer have to walk under the sun or rain, which they have been enduring in the past 25 years.

Joel Gavina, manager of Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines – General Santos City (CAAP-GenSan), which manages the United States-funded airport that began operations in 1996, said the rehabilitation includes the construction of a passenger boarding bridge.

Passengers board a Philippine Airlines plane at the General Santos City Airport. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

With the upgrading that started in 2017, the airport could also start servicing inbound night flights, he said, noting the airport has been serving out-bound night flights only.

“The airport passenger terminal and navigational equipment have been upgraded to better serve the public,” he told MindaNews in a phone interview.

The passenger terminal building underwent a major facelift, with the rehabilitation works expanding it from 4,000 square meters (sq. m) to 12,000 sq. m., Gavina stressed, adding the improvement works covered the departure and arrival wings.

“You can be proud of the airport’s facelift,” he said.

According to the list of “Build, Build, Build” projects from the National Economic and Development Authority, the GenSan airport’s upgrading is due for completion in 2021. It was funded through the General Appropriations Act with an amount of P1.096 billion under the transport and mobility sector.

Considered the gateway to Soccsksargen (Region 12), the GenSan airport’s new look included a design featuring a tuna fin, in deference to the city’s major product.

GenSan, touted  as the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines,” hosts six tuna canneries that employ 10,000 workers at full capacity. It also exports fresh large mature tuna to Japan and the United States, among others. The tuna industry likewise provides employment to tens of thousands of others from downstream or ancillary industries.

Gavina said the inauguration of the airport’s new look is set next month with President Rodrigo Duterte expected to grace the event.

The official noted that the upgraded two-story airport terminal will host restaurants, coffee shops and souvenir stores once construction works are fully completed.

So far, the GenSan airport is servicing the commercial flights of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air and AirAsia. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the airport served daily flights to Manila and vice versa. There are also scheduled flights to Cebu and Iloilo and vice versa.

The GenSan airport was constructed with a design to accommodate wide-bodied planes. The United States extended $37.5 million for the development of the airport in the 1990s. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)