Gov’t needs P10-B for Naga Airport’s reorientation project
By JASON B. NEOLA
AFTER more than a decade of waiting and two presidents later, the Naga Airport’s reorientation project is seen to finally push through as the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) again restarted discussion on the facility’s long-approved expansion and runway reorientation.
The project, which is designed to improve air safety, navigation issues, and passenger capacity, has been in the thick of discussions among the members of the Regional Development Council especially during the time the body conducted its first quarterly meeting this year.
Despite the namesake, the Naga Airport is actually located in Naga’s adjacent capital town of Pili, more or less a 15-minute drive from the city.
The current runway is too short to accommodate larger jet airliners and cannot be extended because of two deep ravines on both its ends. Airlines therefore have to resort to smaller turboprop aircraft which can fit no more than 80 passengers. Fewer passengers mean more expensive airfare overall.
To address this, the proposed project calls for the construction of a new, longer runway with a different orientation. Aside from the runway, there will also be a new passenger terminal and larger apron that can accommodate multiple jet aircraft at any given time. The new airport will also be night-rated, allowing for more flights in the evening.
Naga Mayor Nelson Legacion said that once the project is completed, passengers from Naga, which are generally composed of businessmen and professionals, will be spared from spending more time going to the Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay if only to avail of cheaper flights and lower risk of cancellations and delays.
Legacion was among those individuals who personally requested the NEDA to take up the matter concerning the facility’s planned reorientation project.
The reorientation project is also expected to help sustain the strong resurgence of tourism in Naga and Camarines Sur after the pandemic. In 2022, Naga’s Arts, Culture and Tourism Office (ACTO) reported the city’s highest ever tourist arrivals of 2.2 million under ACTO’s former head, Alec Santos who attributed the strong growth to the City Government and the private sector’s quick adaptation to post-pandemic recovery plans.
It was learned from the presentation conducted by the Department of Tourism (DOTr) during the RDC meeting that as early as the time of former president Benigno Aquino Jr. the redevelopment project received an approved initial allocation of P1-B. The project’s total cost then was estimated to be P3.5 billion.
The P1-B initial funding is currently in the safekeeping of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the owner and operator of the Naga Airport, readily available anytime once the reorientation project has been decided to be pursued.
Based on the latest estimates, however, the project is now expected to cost more than P10 billion due to inflation and the sharp increase in construction materials and labor over the past 10 years.
The city mayor, who has been attending the RDC meeting in recent times, said that he was assured by NEDA Regional Director Luis Banua that he will be invited to attend the NEDA’s project facilitation sessions or the RDC’s regular meetings every time that there will be a deliberation on Naga Airport’s reorientation project so that he can participate.
Legacion wishes to offer guidance on the discussion especially when it comes to land acquisition which he observed could be a long process if not carefully attended to.
It was learned from the presentation of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) during the previous meeting that the government has to acquire around 130 hectares of land for the project. But the Office of the Solicitor General, as of late, has only 5 expropriation cases filed and the total expanse of land to acquire is owned by around 60 landowners.