DOTC says Panglao still best location for airport

Despite Consultants contrary stand

By Ronnel Domingo

December 27, 2010

MANILA, Philippines—Despite opposition by civil-society groups, the Department of Transportation and Communications is keen on building a new international airport on Panglao Island instead of any other location in Bohol as based on requirements of navigational safety.

Rolando G. Tungpalan, deputy director general of the National Economic and Development Authority, said in an interview that the DOTC was reviewing the feasibility studies on the proposed airport—something that critics and even NEDA itself have asked to be done.

“The review is ongoing, but as of today [the DOTC] believes Panglao is the best possible location for the airport,” Tungpalan said. “It has something to do with the terrain and wind patterns.”

Even then, Tungpalan—who is responsible for investment programming—said there was no final and definite decision on the location yet.

In 2009, the NEDA’s investment coordination committee-Cabinet committee gave the green light to the proposed increase in the cost of the Panglao Island airport development project.

Changes in the design, increased prices of needed supplies and the acquisition of an additional 14.5 hectares of land pushed up the project cost to P7.54 billion, or 76 percent more than the original P4.27 billion.

According to the Neda ICC-CC, the project was approved on condition that the provincial government of Bohol was to conduct another multisectoral consultation to address ecological or environmental issues.

Earlier, a group of academics, lawyers and religious Bohol natives based in Metro Manila renewed its call for the government to “not rush” the planned international airport on Panglao Island as the state prepared to bid out a contract as part of a package of partnerships with the private sector.

In a letter to Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose P. de Jesus, University of the Philippines economics professor Ernesto M. Pernia said public consultations were not properly carried out and the feasibility study on the geologically unsound plan was done poorly.

Pernia, who represents the group called Concerned Boholano Professionals in Metro Manila, said there was a risk that the runway and buildings would collapse due to the sinkholes and caves, which government engineers failed to consider when they conducted a feasibility study because tests using ground-penetrating radar were apparently not done.

“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,” he said. “For instance, the economic forecasts are overly optimistic based on questionable assumptions.”

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