Upgraded Davao Airport Ready for More Passengers, Bigger Aircraft

Jun. 17, 2006

DAVAO CITY With air transportation crucial to economic and social connectivity in the Philippine archipelago, the new $128 million state-of-the-art international airport in this city is a welcome development. It is now fully operational and is raring to take in more passengers and bigger aircraft.

With financing from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Davao airport has been upgraded and expanded to provide reliable and safe all-weather operations that meet international standards and remove infrastructure bottlenecks which were constraining the growth of domestic and international air services. It will also enhance Davaos access to nearby markets and improve the overall economic prospects of the Southern Philippines, and could be considered one vital link for the intermodal transport network essential for this area.

Last year, actual passenger volume already surpassed one million domestic passengers flown in by Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines and Asian Spirit out of 14 daily local flights. International passengers to and from Manado and Singapore reached almost 25,000. But Davaos spacious and modern terminal building is designed to accommodate much more, and can easily accommodate up to twice its designed minimum passenger capacity of one million passengers.

The old airport terminal accommodated less than one million passengers in its last year of operation. It did not attract international flights and the city therefore fell short of its strategic role in the Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA). The passenger terminal had exceeded its capacity and the instrument landing system was not usable for precision approaches and landings. As a result, international flights did not fly to and from Davao, and international passengers heading for or leaving Davao were forced to use Manila as a transfer point.

Today, its present daily passenger volume is roughly 1,500, with the early morning peak hour servicing the bulk of that number. The succeeding flights do not have as much passenger traffic. But even at its peak, the airport can handle the steady inflow of passengers with its 14 domestic and 14 international check-in counters, almost double than its previous number of counters. The Check-in counters are equipped with electronic weighing scales and conveyors and its baggage handling system is also computerized.

The upgraded airport was funded through a loan from the ADB, approved in 1994, which provided $41 million while the European Investment Bank provided $23 million. The original cost of the project was $105 million but due to foreign exchange escalation costs, the Asian financial crisis, and land acquisition costs, total cost of the Project reached $128 million.

The airport, officially named Francisco Bangoy International Airport, opened on Dec. 2, 2003. The 209-hectare airport development for both airside and landside civil works was constructed in four years time. The airport upgrading consisted of runway extension of 500 meters, achieving a usable take-off length of 3,000 meters that could now accommodate currently operated wide-body aircraft of major airlines, even 747s. The installation of a new landing instrumentation system (ILS) for both Runways 05 and 23 upgraded its compliance to International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) operating category – Precision Approach Category 1, similar to Manilas Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It can accommodate 8 to 10 aircraft landings per hour, depending on the size, and has the equivalent 8 gate holding areas for those aircraft.

The Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower is considered the most advanced here in the Philippines, even more sophisticated than NAIAs, boasts assistant airport manager Joey Saddam who was then the project manager of the airport construction.

The project also covers the construction of a new Malay architecture-inspired terminal building which cost P1 billion and is four times bigger than the old airport terminal. It is highly computerized, more secure, and has more commercial spaces for concessionaires at approximately 9,000 sq. m. It has four new units of boarding bridges for passengers. Airport Manager Frederick San Felix considers their security system quite strict. Baggage is regularly screened three times prior to passenger check-in/boarding. Its better that you know that all the baggages have been thoroughly checked for your own protection, he stresses.

Besides the main terminal building, there are also new support facilities like the Administration Building, the Central Plant Building, Airfield Maintenance Building, and Fire/Crash/Rescue Building. It has a 688-slot car parking area and 4 slots for shuttle buses. It has a 3-megawatt standby power generator.

The Energy Management Control System for the centralized air conditioning system, electrical and lights system, is now located in just one room. Its Access Control System ensures that not all airport personnel have access to all areas of the airport such that certain cards can only enter selected doors and everybody entering them is registered.

It also has a Flight Information Display System and Closed Circuit Television System complementing the terminals security system. The Cargo Terminal Building covers almost 5,580 sq. meters and can handle up to 84,600 tons a year. In 2005, actual cargo volume was almost 44,000 tons.

With such modern facilities, the Davao City airport officials feel they can justify their proposed five-fold increase in terminal fees from P40 to P200 per passenger, the same as the fee being charged in Manila and Cebu airports. Rentals are also proposed to be increased to raise the airports revenues, which only grossed almost P120 million in 2005, for its future sustainability.

With a modern international airport in place, it is hoped that the vast economic potentials of Mindanao will finally be unlocked and optimized to the fullest after decades-long peace and order problems and poverty concerns. (Rita Festin/Asian Development Bank)

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