COTABATO CITY (MindaNews / 11 Jan) – Chief Minister Ahod Ebrahim of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has vowed to improve the services of Awang Airport and five other airports in the region now that their management and control had been turned over to BARMM.
But retired Brig. Gen. Dionisio Robles, CAAP intelligence and investigation division chief, pointed out that “what we have just turned over are the land side management of the airport. The air side management and control will remain with the CAAP.”
“We will try our best to maximize the development of these airports, including those non-operational airstrips in BARMM,” Ebrahim said Tuesday during the turnover ceremonies for management of the six airport facilities from the CAAP to BARMM through the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC).
“Air connectivity is one of our major programs to improve the delivery of services to island provinces of BARMM,” he added.
Robles handed over the plaque to Ebrahim during the turnover rites held at the passenger waiting area of Awang Airport in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao del Norte.
Awang Airport is also known as the Cotabato Airport.
Transportation Minister Paisalin Tago has expressed that his office will prioritize the development in terms of structure, management and services of these airports now under its jurisdiction.
“A good airport means good image for a particular country. If our airports are good, more tourists and investors will come and visit us,” Tago said in the vernacular.
Ebrahim said the transfer of management of the aviation industry in the region “is a manifestation that the peace process is working and the BARMM government through MOTC is working hand in hand with all relevant stakeholders.”
He described it as “by-products” or “dividends” of the Mindanao peace process.
While the turnover rites were ongoing, incoming passengers of Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines were greeted by a chaotic arrival area at the terminal building that had been undergoing renovation for over a year
Baggage are claimed not in a conveyor but in a makeshift claim area at an open parking space fronting the airport terminal building.
Even Tago was upset over the long delayed renovation of the Cotabato Airport. He blamed the contractors of CAAP working on the terminal building’s renovation.
“Even in my speech I personally asked Gen. Robles to help fast-track the renovation. With due respect to the contractor, they keep issuing deadline for completion last year. Now they promised again to complete the job by April or March,” said Tago.
He vowed to monitor personally the development of construction works on a weekly basis.
Robles explained that CAAP will still manage the completion of the renovation since it was a pending project or ongoing at the time of the turnover to BARMM.
Out of the six airports, three are non-operational airports. These are in Mapun, Tawi-Tawi; and Wao and Malabang in Lanao del Sur. While the operational ones are the Cotabato Airport; Sanga-sanga Airport in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi; and Jolo Airport in Sulu.
Tago said the MOTC is considering the conversion of the Malabang airstrip into a cargo airport for incoming goods bound to BARMM.
The Mapun Airport is being considered as cargo trading hub due to its proximity to Sabah, Malaysia. (Ferdinandh Cabrera / MindaNews)