Bicol International Airport (BIA): Soon to Open

It was early of 2006 when government officials planned and discussed the feasibility of an international airport in Legazpi, also known as Bicol International Airport (BIA). It was March 4 and 5, 2006 to be exact when the officials in Daraga, where the airport would be constructed as discussed by the Barangay captains of Alobo, Inarado, Kinawitan, Burgos and Mabini to convert the agricultural lands into industrial lands for the airport; many families were displaced from the construction.

Bicol International Airport

It will be the first international airport to be built in Bicolandia and would be evidence to economic growth in the region and of the dreams of Bicolanos. The Bicol Regional Development Council, after much delay, has newly announced that it would soon be finished in July 2017. BIA will now be included in the lists of international airports in the Philippines.

It was July 2007, when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the DOTC (Department of Transportation AND Communication) to fast track the paperwork and official procedure of the planned new airport and released 85 million pesos for its advance engineering study. During that time, Tourism Secretary Ace Durano, has assured the allotment of 250 million pesos for the purchase of land. On November 2007, pre-construction activities such as feasibility study and site development planned have been completed.

The airport was originally scheduled for completion in 2014 but due to construction delay, the project was expected to be finished at an unspecified date before 2016. In June 2015, it was reported that the construction is 47% done and would be finished in July 2017. At some time in July 2016, it was reported that the construction would be delayed further and would be finished in August 2018.

In September 2012, the Budget Department released 4.6 billion pesos to support the public-private partnership (PPP) projects of the DOTC. The airport will receive a total of 2 billion pesos for the development and to fund the engineering of runways and taxiways.

BIA was a 4.7 billion peso project and is on a 200-hectare plateau, 15 kilometers from Mayon Volcano. Some sources name it Southern Luzon International Airport and will replace the old domestic airport, Legazpi Airport in Legazpi City hosting local flights to and from Manila.

According to Albay 2nd District Representative Joey Salceda, the new international airport would pave way for a safer and faster means of transportation. People who will travel abroad who are residing in the Bicol Region will no longer have to travel going to Manila for their international trips especially the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW). He thanked President Rodrigo Duterte, who graced the groundbreaking ceremony last December 8, for approving the BIA project. He also said, “He lost here during the elections; nevertheless, he still showed that he is doing his job. What took the previous administration three years to do; he was able to do in four months.” What he was talking about was the release of 700-million peso funds for the construction of the landslide facilities of the BIA.

Salceda added, “Duterte knows what the people need and care about every day. Here in Bicol, our strongest potential is Tourism.” The congressional representative also said that the projects would create 100,000 more jobs for Bicolanos.

He later concluded, “We owe it to Duterte for being decisive,” since the construction has been delayed for over a decade after two former Presidents, Gloria Arroyo and Benigno Aquino III, failed to implement the project. They put the blame on former DOTC Secretary Jun Abaya for not prioritizing the project.

Another good thing about this is that the more tourists will visit the region for attractions like Camarines Sur Water Sports Complex and the Caramoan Islands that will encourage economic growth and tourism in the Bicol Region.

It would be an advantage to many businesses from different business industries once BIA is fulfilled because of reduced travel time.

Daraga Mayor Gerry Rodrigueza Jaucean said in an interview, “We’re grateful to the President for fulfilling the Bicolano’s dream to have an international airport. This is the realization of our quest to become one of the booming regions in the country.”

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