Government exploring other sites for Bohol airport

But Panglao is still on the list

Monday, 29 November 2010

By Cai U. Ordinario

DUE to the concerns raised by non-government organizations (NGOs) and various experts on the safety and environmental issues that envelop the building of the Panglao airport, the national government is currently exploring other locations for the Bohol airport.

In an interview over the long weekend, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Dr. Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr. said the government is already looking at other options to place the Bohol airport other than in the proposed location in Panglao.

The building of the new Bohol airport development, which is being implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), is included in the first 10 projects proposed under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP). The estimated cost of the project is $168.89 million or around P7.6 billion.

“It’s actually being looked at in response to their [concern]. There has been an honest look for alternative places that will also serve the purpose more or less. But in a way, the agency [DOTC] still has a lot of influence on where it will finally end up and they are looking at that,” Paderanga said.

“The commitment is for sure [that] for next year there will be an airport in Bohol because the demand is there. It’s being studied but at some point, a decision has to be made and the decision may include compromises on all sides,” he added.

The Neda chief said the concern for the safety of placing an airport in Panglao island was raised to the new Cabinet upon its assumption into office. This has led the Aquino Cabinet to study other locations for the airport without delaying the project.

Paderanga assured investors and the public that the new airport will still be bidded out by the second quarter of 2011 as scheduled. The government hopes that by the end of the fourth quarter of 2011, a contract will already be awarded to a winning bidder.

One of the staunchest critics of the airport is former Asian Development Bank lead economist Dr. Ernesto M. Pernia, who recently sent a letter to DOTC Secretary Jose P. de Jesus on the matter.

The letter, which was also sent to other Cabinet secretaries like Paderanga, Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisma, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim, and Secretary Ricky Carandang, stated the dangers and pitfalls of placing an airport on Panglao island.

One of the most dangerous physical threats of constructing an airport on Panglao was the fact that the area is made of soft limestone that places the airport at risk of collapse due to sinkholes.

“Geologists [like] Dr. Carlo Arcilla of UP NIGS [National Institute of Geological Sciences] say that the Island is constituted of soft limestone with several sinkholes or cavities not visible to the naked eye—there are allegedly caves underground. There’s a risk that the runway and buildings would collapse due to the sinkholes. Apparently, in the previous administration’s rush, careful geological tests [like] ground penetrating radar had not been conducted,” Pernia said.

Apart from the physical threat, Pernia and other concerned Boholano professionals in Metro Manila like former UP President Dr. Jose V.

Abueva, raised concerns regarding the environmental ramifications of placing an airport in Panglao as well as questioned the quality of the feasibility study done on the proposed airport.

Pernia said that locating an airport will destroy Panglao’s “delicate ecology.” Panglao island is considered as the “crown jewel” of Bohol’s tourism industry. But locating an airport in the island will only destroy the pristine environment that year after year draw in tourists to Bohol.

Further, Pernia and other groups believe that proper public consultation may have not been made and only a “pro-forma” survey was conducted through Holy Name University research center.

“We have reviewed the feasibility study done by the TCGI engineers, the consulting firm hired for the purpose and we found the study’s quality and rigor markedly below par. For instance, the economic forecasts are overly optimistic based on questionable assumptions,” Pernia said.

“We have also raised the question: why is there a need for an international [though now reportedly modified to a “regional”] airport in Bohol when the Mactan International Airport [MIA] is so close? Would it not make better economic sense to spend funds to upgrade the MIA into a truly world-class airport to serve the Visayas and Mindanao?

To facilitate the transfer of tourists from Mactan to Bohol, why not build a wharf near the MIA where the tourists could directly board nicer ferryboats such that the cruise to Bohol could already be part of the tour?” he added.

No comments:

Post a Comment