On Panglao International Airport Project

Surplus of Airports Amid Food Deficit
By Ernesto M. Pernia
Commentary - Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:39:00 05/20/2008

International airports are a humdrum topic until one realizes that we have too many of them, yet we do not have enough food, power, water and other basic needs. The subject comes to mind because another international airport is to break ground this month in Panglao Island, Bohol. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself is scheduled to preside over the ceremony.

The project was first conceptualized more than 20 years back when hardly anyone even dreamed that the island would become a world-renowned tourist attraction. With the typical on-again, off-again manner of government planning, not too many people paid attention to the project. Of late, however, it’s been rushed supposedly so that it can be completed in two years, before the end of the President’s and the provincial governor’s term in 2010.

The key question is: Does the country need another international airport in addition to the nine existing ones (Laoag, Clark, Subic, NAIA, Iloilo, Mactan, Davao, General Santos, Zamboanga, not to mention the one planned for Cagayan de Oro)?

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DOTC to provide funds for Panglao int’l airport beyond MIAA’s P3B
By June S. Blanco
News & Events - Bohol.gov.ph
Originally Posted: 2008-02-18

Nothing beats regular meetings to iron out kinks in gigantic projects like the Panglao Bohol International Airport .

The Panglao Island Tourism Estate Inter-Agency Task Force (PITE IA-TF) chaired by Gov. Erico Aumentado put to good use his the time-tested and proven practice as they tackled Friday the concern of where to get the funds for the P4-billion airport after the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) had committed only up to P3 billion. [...]

MIAA General Manager Alfonso Cusi earlier said the authority will get the amount from payables of the Philippine Airlines (PAL).

The task force invoked Section 6 of Memorandum Order (M.O.) 178-A signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on January 13, 2006 that provides that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary shall regularly releases the allotments and disbursement authority … as authorized in the General Appropriations Act, covering both loan proceeds and local fund counterparts, and from the budgets of DOTC [Department of Transportation and Communications], PTA [Philippine Tourism Authority], DOT [Department of Tourism], ATO [Air Transportation Office] and PPA [Philippine Ports Authority].

M.O. 210 later amended this to include MIAA as a funder. [...]

Airport city
Meanwhile, the task force will adopt the ‘airport city’ concept in the development of the Panglao airport.

The decision came after Serrano presented the concept at Friday’s meeting.

“I share the vision of MIAA to set up an airport city in Panglao Island as support facility to make the Panglao Airport economically viable. The plan is not far-fetched – it can be realized with MIAA and the government working in tandem with the private sector,” Aumentado said.

Serrano said the concept was born out of a comprehensive study conducted by MIAA, ATO and DOTC that chart the national aviation program.

The current thrusts in airport development are giving way to broader, more encompassing concepts, he explained.

“The airport city will spell big earnings from non-aeronautical activities,” he said, adding that the concept is now being applied in Hong Kong , Singapore , Kuala Lumpur , the United States and Europe .

Development is now geared to integrating the role of the airport in shaping an area or vicinity. This new type of urban form features aviation-intensive businesses and other enterprises within the airport and its immediate vicinity.

This includes hotels and entertainment facilities serving as job engines pump-priming the economy. It would therefore attract corporations, international business presence, travelers and high-income jobs, among others.

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By IJsselstein
Posted On: 19 May 2008
Bohol Philippines: God's Little Paradise

[...] Most tourists come to Bohol to enjoy its natural resources: in particular scuba divers come here to admire the underwater coral reefs. Another significant group are foreigners and former Filipinos who have relatives on the island. [...]

The trip to Bohol by boat from Manila takes about 25 hours, and is not a realistic option for tourists. The flight takes between one and two hours, depending on aircraft type. Transfer from NAIA in Manila to the domestic airport takes about one hour. Currently, there are one or two flights per day directly to Bohol, but a number of visitors may also choose to go via Cebu, which is served by numerous daily flights.

The trip by fast ferry from Cebu takes about one and a half hour. Unfortunately, transfer from Mactan Airport to the pier also takes about two hours, and requires dealing with the rather hectic traffic situation between Lapu-Lapu city and Cebu. Finally, the transfer from both the pier and the airport in Tagbilaran city to the resorts in Panglao takes about half an hour.

Foreign tourists have to spend at least four to five hours after arriving in the Philippines to reach their destination in Bohol. This assumes schedules match perfectly. In practice, many visitors will be forced to spend a night in either Manila or Cebu before they can continue their trip to Bohol. Obviously, this delay is the main argument in favor of an International Airport on Bohol.

However, in this article, we will show that this is not enough justification for the considerable investments required.

After concluding that an airport in Panglao doesn't make sense, what alternatives can be proposed to develop tourism in Bohol in a economically, socially, and environmentally responsible way. I can think of a number of things that can better be done with the available funds.

Protect assets. The provincial government should guard its assets for future generations. It should not kill the goose with the golden eggs, nor allow commercial exploiters, or just sheer indifference or poverty to do the same. Support should given to grass-roots initiatives to protect the marine environment, such as the small marine sanctuaries that have started to appear around the coastline. Destructive fishing methods should be stopped. Historical buildings need proper attention and repairs to remain attractive. In tourist development zones, no buildings should be higher than the coconut trees.

Develop medium size resorts. Bohol can still offer space to a range of smaller and medium sized quality resorts, up to about 40 rooms, as long as each of these new resorts offer some unique selling points and a special atmosphere. Examples of such resorts with a special atmosphere may be Ananyana, or the Bohol Bee Farm. Such medium sized resorts offer much better opportunities for locals to be involved, and often offer better services to their customers.

Keep beaches free. Bohol should keep its beaches free. In all senses of the word: free for all visitors to enjoy, even if they cannot afford the high entrance prices of some of the resorts. This way, word-of-mouth advertising will have the widest reach. Even young backpackers traveling on a shoestring will grow older and return to stay in the better places. Beaches should also be free from stray waste, dirt and other annoyances. In particular, the province should create and strictly enforce a no-build zone for the first 50 or even better 100 meters from the high-water line on the beach. This will create a commons that can be enjoyed by all. It should also keep the beaches free from too many hawkers. People don't mind watching somebodies wares once or twice during a beach holiday, but if they constantly have to send away over-zealous sales people, they will not return. [...]

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If I can correctly recall, the idea of an airport in Panglao island came about initially because of the limitation that upgrading the old Tagbilaran Domestic Airport (TDA) presented because of various reasons -- one major reason is that, besides being misplaced in the first place, the TDA is now already surrounded by residential buildings making further expansion of its runway impossible.

The original plan was just a modern domestic airport in Panglao that could accommodate larger domestic-flight aircrafts. The planners thought that since Panglao is an island, it poses no risk of high rise structures that could distract the pilots during take-off and landing procedures -- which was the main complain of PAL pilots about TDA.

The plan was conceived many years back. As time progressed, it became a flagship project that politicians used during elections. Candidates after candidates running for governor and congressmen, and elections after elections, it became their favorite promise to the people of Bohol such that from a domestic airport plan it became an international airport plan.

There were small groups of people in the province and from abroad who were opposed to the plan. Hearings and dialogs were conducted but major disagreements still remain.

Now that the plan is finally an approved project and the needed lands are already acquired and sources of funding are already secured, under the current governor's hands, according to his legal consultants, only a court order could stop him from pursuing it into completion.

Personally, I preferred the original plan but it should be located elsewhere in Bohol -- somewhere not so far from the capital city which is Tagbilaran. There should be large land area appropriately reserved as allowance in case the need to upgrade it into an international airport becomes inevitable in the future.