FACT CHECK Facelift of GenSan air and sea ports initiated during Aquino presidency

President Rodrigo Duterte’s claim that the improvement of the air and sea ports in General Santos City (GenSan) is part of his centerpiece “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program is false. The upgrading of the city’s airport and the Makar Wharf was funded and started during the term of the late President Benigno Simeon Aquino III (2010 to 2016).

Duterte inspected the newly-completed development projects at the General Santos City Airport and the Makar Port on November 22, 2021.

President Rodrigo Duterte delivers his speech during the inspection of the newly expanded General Santos Airport in Barangay Fatima, General Santos City on November 22, 2021. ALBERTO ALCAIN/ PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

“Indeed, it is another significant milestone under our Build, Build, Build  Program that envisions to improve travel and mobility throughout the country as well as stimulate our economic activities,” he said in his speech.

While those development projects were completed under the current Duterte administration, they were initiated during the previous Aquino administration.

According to the SOCSKSARGEN Area Development Project Office (SADPO) Annual Report 2015, the General Santos City Airport was provided a budget of P959 million under Calendar Year 2015 of the Department of Transportation and Communications’ (DOTC) Infrastructure Program for the improvement of the existing airport passenger terminal building and other facilities.

On January 15, 2015, MindaNews published a report quoting a top official from the Regional Development Council – Region 12 that preparatory works for the airport’s expansion would begin during the month. https://www.mindanews.com/top-stories/2015/01/p959m-expansion-project-for-gensan-airport-to-start-this-month/

Also in a statement, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), during Aquino’s term, noted the expansion project of the GenSan Airport was part of the Mindanao Development Corridors, a key spatial strategy of MinDA that will help pave the way for a connected and globally competitive Mindanao. MinDA is a government agency tasked to coordinate and accelerate the socioeconomic development of Mindanao.

The then DOTC, which is now known as the Department of Transportation, advertised an “Invitation to Bid” for the expansion/rehabilitation of the GenSan Airport with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on 17 November 2015. The approved budget for the contract was P374.563 million. https://dotr.gov.ph/images/Public_Bidding/CivilWorks/Air_Sector/2015/1.078B-InfraProjects/ITB_1.078B_InfraAirportProjects-FINAL.pdf

In a July 28, 2020 news item, the state-run Philippine News Agency reported: “The airport terminal project, which started in June 2017, was part of the P959 million funding approved by the Department of Transportation (and Communications) in 2015 for the upgrading and improvement of the city airport.” https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1110338

As to the Makar Wharf improvement, the SADPO Annual Report 2015 indicated that the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) identified various initiatives under its Medium Term Public Investment Plan amounting to P835.98 million aimed to improve the facilities and operation of the Makar Port.

As of December 2015, several projects were undertaken by the PPA Project Management Office SOCSKSARGEN, including the upgrading of the western wharf, the report said. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)

(This fact-check piece was produced with the support of Internews’ Philippine Fact-Checker Incubator Project.)