SURIGAO CITY—The repair and widening of the quake-hit Surigao Airport runway remain on track despite several conflicts faced by the contractors that halted the project for several years as Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar was asked to facilitate it with the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
“For how many months now, tuloy-tuloy po ang aming (we have constant) coordination ni (with) Sec. Art Tugade, ako bilang (me as) Surigaonon, and Secretary Art naman bilang (as) Department of Transportation Secretary,” Andanar said in a press briefing here on Wednesday as the officials inspected the Surigao Airport runway and batching site.
“Dahil po sa pakiusap, tuloy na po yung ugnayan namin ni Sec. Art Tugade (Because of the request, our coordination with Sec. Art Tugade pushed through),” he added.
On June 3, the Provincial Capitol of Surigao Del Norte adopted Resolution No. 103 Series of 2019 asking Andanar to intervene in the delayed repair of the Surigao Airport.
The Surigao City Chamber of Commerce & Industry Inc. also adopted a resolution on June 15, 2019.
As Andanar sought to fast-track the project, he was given the affirmation by the DOTr to make a catch-up plan to reach full operational capability by February 2020.
“Kahit hindi nasimulan noon, hahabulin po talaga ng DOTr ang mga buwan na hindi nasimulan para po tayo makaabot sa deadline mismo(Though it did not start as scheduled, the DOTr will make up for missed months so that we can finish it right on the deadline),” Andanar said.
The widening of the Surigao Airport runway began in October 2015, but did not proceed as planned as HERBANA Builders, the previous project contractor, declared bankruptcy and left the project hanging.
In February 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit Surigao City that damaged the runway, only being able to use 1,000 meters from the original 1,700 meters. This led to the suspension of seven weekly Philippine Airlines flights between Manila and Surigao.
While the DOTr issued a notice to proceed to new contractors Pacific Concrete and VT Lao Construction for the Surigao Airport Development Project and secured fresh funding of PHP123.5 million from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, the construction did not start promptly.
“Sa kasamaang palad, nagkaroon tayo ng bagyo dito at may mga tulay, limang tulay po ang nasira at hindi ‘ho passable in the sense that nagbigay ang DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) para sa kaligtasan ng lahat ng mananakay at sa mga biyahero may limitasyon kung ilan lang ang kayang i-biyahe (Unfortunately, typhoon damaged five bridges and were not passable in the sense that DPWH provided for the safety of passengers and commuters, the is a limit),” DOTr Assistant Secretary Giovanni Lopez said.
However, Andanar and Lopez agreed that the contractors should set-up a concrete plant and batching plant near the airport to avoid similar delays.
“Totoong naantala. Pero kahit ang (It was delayed but even the) original contract duration, which is February 2020, that is non-negotiable. Yan po ang ginagawa natin, ginagawan po ng paraan ngayon. ‘Yan po ang mangyayari, (That’s what we are doing now) we will deliver on the same period regardless of the delay. Reasonable or unreasonable, gagawin po natin yan (we will finish it),” Lopez said.
Lopez said the runway’s partial operation of up to 1,400 meters is possible by November to resume the operations of seven weekly Manila-Surigao flights.
He said this will accommodate the high demand of flights in the Christmas season. (PR)