COTABATO CITY, Philippines – Government officials have assured business leaders here that flight operations at Cotabato (Awang) Airport willl resume normal operations in August this year, with the expected completion of runway and taxiway expansion project earlier than the original target.
In a recent dialogue-meeting at the Executive Office of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), officials from key government agencies and local business leaders have reached a consensus for flight adjustments and fastracking of airport expansion work.
The meeting, which sought to address issues arising from the airport’s flight service limitations, was attended by officials from the ARMM, City Government of Cotabato, Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), as well as leaders from the business community.
Currently, flights to and from Cotabato City are reduced to four days-a-week schedule with Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays dedicated for project construction work. Prior to this, the airport has four daily flights to and from Manila.
“We are looking into every possible way to ease the inconvenience resulting from the airport expansion work, even as we recognize the impact of this to the business sector,” said MinDA Executive Director Janet Lopoz, adding that, “efforts are geared at hastening project implementation, while ensuring that quality is not compromised.
According to DOTC’s Lino Dhabi, Assistant Secretary for Project Monitoring and Evaluation, the rehabilitation of Cotabato Airport accords safe and enhanced facility for flights by providing adequate dimension of runway and taxiway, in compliance with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.
Meanwhile, Lopoz said the DOTC Project Management Unit has committed to submit monthly reports to the concerned agencies to ensure that the new project timeline and the quality standards are strictly followed.
An agreement was also met by the inter-agency group to facilitate a window time of flight schedule from 12:00 PM to 4 PM every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, with the Philippine Airlines (PAL) Express expressing interest to provide flight services to the proposed window schedule.
The P55-million airport improvement project, which commenced in January this year has drawn negative reactions from the Cotabato flying passengers reporteldy due to lack of public consultation and delays in work. The reduced flights also resulted to double handling and attendant costs.
The original project timeline has set the project completion, including construction of perimeter fence, to December this year.
Acting on the call of the Cotabato business sector and other flying passengers, the Regional Board of Investments of ARMM passed a resolution to convene all the concerned entities to resolve the issues on airport improvement project.
“The completion of the project is seen to significantly improve the business climate in Central Mindanao, as it aims to attract more local and foreign investors by providing the needed business logistics, particularly flight connectivity,” Mastura said.