TRANSPORTATION Secretary Arthur P. Tugade reported on Tuesday that his group has completed 17 commercial airport projects in the last three years, while 28 more are ongoing, as he noted the “vital importance” of connectivity in regional development.

He said that within the first half of President Duterte’s term, two new international airports were built: the Lal-Lo International Airport in Cagayan and the Bohol-Panglao International Airport.

The government, through the public-private partnership (PPP) program, opened the second terminal of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, which boosted its annual capacity to 13.5 million passengers.

Meanwhile, the terminals and runways of the Puerto Princesa Airport and Ormoc Airport were also expanded and extended, while additional infrastructure development was accomplished for the domestic airports of Virac, Marinduque, Tuguegarao, San Vicente and Busuanga in Luzon; Maasin, Tacloban, and Catarman in the Visayas; and Ipil, Camiguin, and Siargao in Mindanao.

“Connectivity and mobility in transport are key components in socioeconomic development. By building new airports and rehabilitating existing ones, the transportation sector contributes to both regional and national progress,” Tugade said.

He added that the Department of Transportation (DOTr), along with its attached agency, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap), is accelerating the ongoing infrastructure development in 27 commercial airports and one military air base. The government is also set to build one more international airport.

Tugade said the government is currently rehabilitating the second terminal of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), while it has implemented a 24/7 construction schedule for the commercialization of Sangley Airport.

Likewise, construction of the second terminal of the Clark International Airport is under way. This will expand the capacity of Clark to 12.2 million passengers per year.

Meanwhile, the Swiss Challenge for the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan is set to be concluded in the third quarter of 2019.

The transportation department is also currently expanding the Bicol International Airport to increase its capacity to 2 million passengers per year.

International airports in Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga, Iloilo, Kalibo and Laoag are also undergoing improvements. Development projects continue, as well, for domestic airports in Busuanga, Cauayan, Naga and Tuguegarao in Luzon; Bacolod-Silay, Calbayog, Catbalogan, Dumaguete and Tacloban in the Visayas; and Bukidnon, Ipil, Laguindingan, Mati, M’lang, Ozamiz, Sanga-Sanga, Siargao and Surigao in Mindanao.

“A number of airports we have rehabilitated were in a dismal state when we took over. We are proud of what we have already accomplished, but we know that we can do more,” Caap Director General Jim Sydiongco said.

By Lorenz S. Marasigan