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Department of Transportation (DOTr) Sec. Art Tugade assured that the construction works of the Bicol International Airport will be completed within the year while the partial operability segment of the PNR Bicol is targeted up to the second quarter of 2022.
To ensure that the big-ticket infrastructure projects in the region remain on track, Sec. Art Tugade visited Albay yesterday, 13 May 2021, to lead a series of inspections with other DOTr and local government officials.
*BIA Inspection*
First stop of the scheduled inspections is the much-awaited Bicol International Airport (BIA), of which construction works are 24/7 since last year on the directive of Sec. Art Tugade. The transportation chief said the DOTr and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), under Director General Jim Sydiongco, will be pushing for the nonstop construction works at the airport to meet its target completion date within the year.
“Hangarin ko ho na matapos ang konstruksyon, at maging operational ang Bicol International Airport bago matapos ang taong ito,” Sec. Art Tugade said.
The BIA, known as the “Most Scenic Gateway” of the country, is now at 82.22% overall progress rate after 13 years of delay. Once operational, it is expected to serve a total of two (2) million passengers every year.
“Matagal na panahon na pong hinintay ng sambayanan, lalo’t higit ng mga Bicolano, ang pagtatapos nitong Bicol International Airport. Bago pa tayo dumating, mayroon nang tatlong groundbreaking ang nagawa rito. Ngayon ho, malapit nang matapos ang aktwal na konstruksyon nito,” Sec. Art Tugade added.
Moreover, in terms of job generation, 755 jobs were created during the airport’s construction phase while 1,100 more indirect jobs await locals once the airport becomes operational.
“Dahil sa tuloy-tuloy na trabaho, inaasahan natin na makapagbibigay ang proyektong ito ng kabuhayan sa ating mga kababayang Bicolano,” Sec. Art Tugade said.
At present, the Package 2A of the BIA, which covers the construction of landside facilities and other buildings, is 94.40% complete, and is targeted to be completed this month. 
Meanwhile, Package 2B, covering the construction of the PTB and runway extension, as well as the construction of the taxiway, drainage, and other site development works, is 68.14% complete, and is slated to be completed by June this year.
In addition, ongoing works for the embankment, and construction of access road and slope protection is now at 52.50% and is being eyed for completion this coming October.
*PNR Bicol inspection*
Sec. Art Tugade and team DOTr also inspected the alignment and the future location of the depot station of the PNR Bicol or the PNR South Long-Haul Project in Legazpi City, Albay. 
The DOTr and the Philippine National Railways (PNR) eye the partial operations of the San Pablo, Candelaria, Lucena, and Pagbilao segments between the first and second quarter of next year. Meanwhile, the full operation of the PNR Bicol Project is slated for the third quarter of 2025.
“Under the leadership of Sec. Art Tugade, DOTr and PNR worked hand in hand to innovate the country’s railways. PNR’s Manila-Legazpi service last run was in 2006. 14-18 hours travel time then, and only twice a week. Now, the current project will decrease travel time to 4.5-6 hours, and multiple frequency per day, depending on demand. Through this project, we are also promoting Integrated Transport, as the PNR New Daraga Station is only 2 kilometers from Bicol Airport,” PNR General Manager Junn Magno said.
To recall, the DOTr signed a contract for the Project Management Consultant of the PNR Bicol in 2018. Moreover, the basic detailed design for the Civil Works Package 1 (Banlic, Laguna to Daraga, Albay) is already finished.
The DOTr and the PNR also target to publish within May and to award the Civil Works Contract Package 1 in the third quarter of this year.
Additionally, the on-site activities are ongoing for the PNR Bicol project, including a Land Parcellary Survey, and the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment.
“Inaasahan po natin na makapag-award po tayo ng unang contractor itong 3rd quarter ng 2021. Ongoing na rin po ang pag-aacquire natin ng mga lupa,” said DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan.
About 560-kilometers long, the PNR Bicol railway line runs from Sucat, Parañaque in Metro Manila to Matnog in Sorsogon, and from Calamba to Batangas. Once operational, PNR Bicol is expected to reduce travel time between Manila and Legazpi from 14-18 hours to just 6 hours with regular commuter trains and 4.5 hours with express trains.
Around 20,000 jobs were generated during the construction phase of the rail project and is expected to generate 10,000 more local jobs once it becomes operational.
*Turnover of Pantao Port from PPA to Albay LGU*
Meanwhile, during the Bicol visit, Sec. Art Tugade, with Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Santiago, also committed the turnover of the administration and operation of the Pantao Port in Libon to the Provincial Government of Albay under Governor Al Francis Bichara effective June 1 this year. 
Sec. Art Tugade assured that the transfer of the Pantao Port from the PPA to the Albay LGU was the subject of a thorough study.
“Matagal na hong mayroong exchange of communications, negotiations, at mga dayalogo d’yan. ‘Yung dayalogo kanina nagbigay ng punto pinal sa matagal nang pinag-uusapan,” the DOTr Secretary explained.
“Sa pamamagitan po ng paglilipat ng administrasyon at operasyon ng Pantao Port ay inaasahan po natin na ito ay mas mapapakinabangan ng Lalawigan ng Albay dahil ito po ay magagamit doon sa mismong pangangailangan ng probinsya para po mapaunlad rin ang ekonomiya at komersyo ‘di lamang sa Libon kundi sa buong Albay,” GM Santiago said.
DOTr Press Release
14 May 2021