By RHAYDZ B. BARCIA
LEGAZPI CITY: Completion of the much-ballyhooed P3.5B Bicol International Airport project may come in 2017, beyond its original target date when the term of its proponent, Albay Gov Joey Salceda, has already expired.
Salceda who also serves as chairman of the Bicol Regional Development Council (RDC) lamented that the airport’s construction has actually been delayed for four years now, despite the approved release last year of P729 million.
It has earlier been reported that the present Aquino administration had promised to finish by this year the construction of the airport, which is the biggest single government investment so far in Bicol to boost the region’s tourism and regional economic development goals.
The governor said that while P720 million of the airport construction budget has already been awarded [to the winning contractor], the balance of P1.3 billion from the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) as allocated in the 2012 General Appropriations Act has remained unutilized.
“So, most likely the international airport will be done by 2017, [when] I’m no longer the governor,” Salceda lamented.
The Bicol International Airport was conceived as a flagship project of then outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. It was reportedly promised to be pushed and completed by then opposition presidential candidate Benigno Aquino III should the latter win the 2010 presidential election.
Salceda, a known political ally and top economic adviser of then President Arroyo, abandoned the then Arroyo administration’sLakas NUCD standard bearer, Defense Secretary Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro, to join the bandwagon of then opposition candidate Noynoy Aquino in the hope that construction of the international airport would be pursued under the incoming new Aquino administration which was clearly leading the presidential race then.
Salceda had hoped that the airport’s targeted completion this year would be timed when Albay would serve as venue of one of the meetings of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation conference that the country is hosting in December this year.
With the international airport under operation, the Albay governor estimated to attract at least 50,000 foreign visitors in 2014; 80,000 in 2015, and; 110,000 in 2016.
With the airport as the anchor, Salceda, through Regional Development Council, had launched the so- called Almasor corridor, an alliance to boost economic development and tourism within the triumvirate collaboration among the provinces of Albay, Masbate, and Sorsogon. – Bicol Mail