Tawi-Tawi airport runway upgrade completed

Prepares to Welcome Major Airlines!

August 21, 2009

The country's southernmost airport in Tawi-Tawi kicks into high gear Monday the 17th of August as it open its door to accommodate bigger aircraft on its runway.

The airport situated in Barangay Sanga Sanga to which it was named from has its runway upgraded and extended from 1,608 meters to 1,920 meters aimed to accommodate narrow-bodied jets such as Airbus 319 and Boeing 737's. Its landing strip was also widened from 18 to 30 meters sufficient to upgrade its aerodome classification to 3C.

The project cost was financed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through its Growth with Equity (GEM) Program amounting to P100 million while the Philippine government chipped in P92.2 million as its counterpart.

US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney graced the airport opening aimed to improve the province’s air links with the rest of the country, and should help strengthen the local economy.

"We are happy to be part of the development of this island province," said Kenney, who was the guest of honor on the inauguration of the extended runway.

Abdelnooh K. Hadjirul, president of the Tawi-Tawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the airport upgrade will give Tawi-Tawi’s emerging aquaculture and eco-tourism industries a competitive advantage.

“There is great potential in eco-tourism here, especially if air links to neighboring countries are established,” said Abdelnooh Hajirul, president of the Tawi-Tawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

On the same tone, Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, Sr., chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) is optimistic of its growth potential. Mr. Leyretana oversees the implementation of the GEM Program.

“These improvements will ensure safer airport operations and higher-capacity air linkages as well as open up more trade, tourism and investment opportunities in the region.” he said.

According to Carlos Canda Tan, GEM’s deputy program manager for infrastructure, the airport will also have new passenger terminal facilities soon and it will be equipped with baggage conveyors and x-ray machines for efficient, effective, convenient and reliable aircraft operations.

Meanwhile Philippine Airlines’ Flight Technical Division Manager Selino S. Jalalon has inspected the facilities at Sanga-Sanga airport to update flight plans and landing and take-off procedure of the airline when they start operating at the airport.

Jalalon said that they would fly the Bombardier Q300 to the airport on a thrice a week service should passenger traffic to the airport becomes economically viable considering that its still very thin today because of its peace and order situation, but entertained the idea of bigger aircraft when there would be demand for it mostly from domestic or foreign tourist. The airline is still evaluating traffic projections to determine what type of aircraft to be used in opening a route to Tawi-Tawi.

At the same time, Cebu Pacific manifested its intention to fly the route with its ATR 72-500 aircraft and possibly preempting PAL on a thrice a week service when new aircraft arrives to join their fleet. Lance Gokongwei, Cebu Pacific CEO, said that 2 ATR turbo prop planes are expected to join their fleet this year.

Cebu Pacific is preparing a hub in Zamboanga for services to Tawi-Tawi, Jolo, Cotabato, Cagayan de Oro, Sandakan, and Kota Kinabalu for connections to Cebu, Davao and Manila.

Zest Air which previously operated at the airport using YS-11 aircraft has also plans to re-introduce Zamboanga as its Mindanao hub for destinations such as Jolo, Tawi-Tawi, and Sandakan.

Presently, Seair is the only airline that serves Tawi-Tawi airport utilizing 19-seater LET plane.

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