DARAGA, ALBAY – Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade marked a historic milestone by successfully landing at the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga, Albay from Manila on Friday morning, 30 July 2021.
Tugade, aboard Gulfstream 150, landed on the BIA runway at past 8:00 a.m.
The probing flight fulfills Secretary Tugade’s promise to return to the province by end of July and land on the airport’s runway. The momentous activity also aims to prove that the gateway remains on track for its target completion by September 2021.
Tugade added that he also intends to check the ongoing progress of the airport, which now stands at 90% completion rate.
Shortly after landing, Secretary Tugade led a site inspection of the airport together with other transport officials and local government leaders, including Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Capt. Jim Sydiongco, Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, Albay Governor Al Francis Bichara, AKO BICOL Partylist Representative Alfredo Garbin, Daraga Mayor Victor Perete, and Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal.
Among the facilities inspected were the gateway’s runway lights, arrival area, check-in counters, and pre-departure area.
Meanwhile, during the press briefing that followed the inspection, Secretary Tugade expressed optimism that the airport project will be finished on time. He likewise shared how meaningful the test landing was for him as the airport project suffered various challenges and setbacks during the period of construction.
“Alam niyo ‘ho ba kaninang magla-landing kami at pinipilit nila na ipakita sa akin ‘yung runway, nagpalakpakan ‘ho lahat ‘yung mga kasama ko, na kung saan ‘yung palakpak na ‘yun, hindi lang ‘ho tumayo ‘yung balahibo ko – lumuha ako,” Secretary Tugade said.
“Alam niyo ‘ho kung bakit? Marami ‘ho kaming dinaanan na problema at difficulties dito. Nagkaroon ng sunog dito – nasunog ‘yung equipment sa construction. Nagkaroon ‘ho ako ng Congressional hearing, alam ni Congressman Garbin ‘yan, na kung saan ako’y pinatawag at pinag-eksplika. Ang lagi ko lang sinasabi: ‘Bayaan niyo lang ‘ho kami magtrabaho – gagawin at gagawin namin ‘yan. 25 years ago pa po ito pinagpaplanuhan at hinihintay ng ating mga kababayang Bicolano. At ngayon, sa wakas ay matatapos na,” he added.
Meanwhile, CAAP Director General Jim Sydiongco assured that with non-stop construction ongoing, the Bicol International Airport will be technically operational for commercial aircraft for day operations by 07 October 2021 and will be night-rated by 04 November 2021.
“To safely operate the airport, the DOTr and CAAP will continue to be steadfast in pushing for the finalization of these necessary activities, not only to support the administration’s Build, Build, Build program, but also to achieve our goal of providing a safer and more comfortable travel experience to Filipinos,” DG Sydiongco said.
Touted as the country’s “Most Scenic Gateway” with the iconic Mayon Volcano for its backdrop, the Bicol International Airport is expected to accommodate a total of 2 million passengers per year once it is fully operational. 755 jobs were given to locals during the construction phase, while 1,100 more indirect jobs are expected to become available once the airport begins commercial operations before the end of this year.