By Che Palicte
DAVAO CITY – Negotiations for the development and expansion of the Mati City Airport in Davao Oriental continue, as local officials said they are coordinating with concerned agencies to speed up the project.
In an interview Wednesday, Davao Oriental Provincial Information Officer Karen Lou Deloso said a consultation-planning was held recently among key personalities from the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), local officials, and the affected landowners.
Deloso said the participants aired their respective concerns relative to the development of the airport, a project that has languished for 40 years now.
Also known as the Imelda R. Marcos Airport, the project in Barangay Dahican was started by then-governor Francisco “Paking” Rabat.
During the recent meeting, Deloso said the stakeholders initially agreed to push through the development of a Class 3C airport, designed to accommodate turbo propeller aircraft.
However, she said the officials involved in the project anticipated future development and expansion, and agreed to push through with the Class 4C airport, which can accommodate larger planes.
DOTr Project Management Staff director Eduardo Manalili said the airport development involves improvement of various facilities that include the terminal building with arrival and departure areas, to be complemented by basic facilities such as a fire station and vehicular parking area.
Manalili noted that the scope of the development requires additional 27-hectare land, on top of the existing 34 hectares that already consisted of the runway and the terminal.
Deloso said the P200 million budget for the airport expansion was approved in the General Appropriations Act of 2019.
In 2018, the national government also allocated P10 million for the fencing of the property.
Davao Oriental 2nd District Rep. Joel Mayo Almario said all parties involved must come up with “concrete solution and settlement” amid concerns over the possible reversion of the P200 million allotment.
Almario was referring to the potential disagreement arising from the valuation of properties by landowners who will be affected by the project.
The lawmaker noted that unutilized funds from the national government would revert to the National Treasury.
“We should not let this pass. The importance of the airport cannot be overemphasized because we are addressing the tourism concerns and we feel that if we leave Mati as it is, it will be difficult to make Mati fully develop because of the province’s geographical location,” Almario said.
Governor Nelson Dayanghirang said the provincial government hopes to make the airport operational by next year.
“This is our long-time dream. This development is our way to improve the city and the province, especially in terms of tourism. We have a lot of destinations to offer in terms of tourism which can be maximized if we could offer our tourists an alternative and inviting means to reach us,” Dayanghirang said. (PNA)