Monday, 10 August 2009

New int’l airport to rise in Philippine tourism triangle

A couple of years from now a new international airport that is seen to further boost tourism not only in Boracay but also in the other destinations will rise in the heart of the Philippines or what is now described as the Philippine Tourism Triangle.

The airport, designed to accommodate large capacity, intercontinental planes such as Boeing 747s, is located in Carabao Island in San Jose, Romblon. The airport is just 1.5 nautical miles (or a ten minute ride by pumpboat) north of Boracay Island. In fact, the two islands are visible to each other.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo first took cognizance of the airport project in her 2006 State of the Nation Address. Since then great strides have been taken towards making the airport a reality.

In a recent report to the President, the Aklan-Romblon Properties Corporation, the private firm that is pursuing the project, said the Carabao Island International Airport Project has already entered the design phase. Mr. Delfin Wenceslao, Jr., the firm’s Chairman of the board, said they have already fully acquired 120 hectares for the airport site and the entire area has been fenced in and ready for land preparation. Delfin also said the firm is currently selecting from three duly accredited multinational engineering firms to provide detailed drawings. Within 60 to 90 days, the detailed drawings will be submitted to the Department of Transportation and Communications for approval. From there, the firm expects the international airport to be operational within 24 months. Total cost of the project is estimated to reach P6 billions.

Earlier, the municipal council of San Jose, the Provincial Board of Romblon, and the Regional Development Council of Region IV-B (Mimaropa) have all unanimously passed resolutions approving the establishment and operation of an international airport in Carabao Island. Likewise, the DOTC’s Air Transportation Office has also granted locational clearance for the project.

Expanding Boracay’s Horizons

Mr. Esteban Tajanlangit, Jr., vice president of the firm, said the new airport will complement Boracay and Philippine tourism in a big way. One of the first to open up a high end resort (Boracay Terraces) and a major stakeholder in Boracay’s future, Tajanlangit said the new airport will ease access to Boracay by eliminating the costly and tedious travel experienced by foreign and domestic tourists going to Boracay.

Also, the savvy and visionary entrepreneur said the new portal will open up other destinations near Boracay, thus expanding the island’s horizons. Tajanlangit noted that unlike Phuket or Bali which have larger land areas for expansion, Boracay is smaller and almost filled to capacity, if not already.

“We must expand if we want to remain competitive,” Tajanlangit said.

Carabao Island has a land area of some 3,000 hectares of mostly flat terrain. Tajanglangit, who described Carabao Island as “shaped like an aircraft carrier,” said it can become a tourist destination in itself when developed in a way similar to Mactan and Lapu-Lapu Islands in Cebu.

Tourism Triangle

In May 28, 2008, the governors of Batangas, Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon, Antique, Aklan, and Palawan signed a Memorandum of Agreement launching the “Tourism Triangle”. The signing, held on board the 7107 Islands Cruise ship which Tajanlangit operates, was witnessed by top officials of the Department of Tourism and the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Tajanlangit pointed out that the projected Carabao Island international airport is at the heart of this tourism triangle. From this airport, travel time to the islands in Northern Palawan or Mindoro or the Semirara group in Antique, for example, can be counted in just minutes. Because of poor and inadequate infrastructure, access by air and sea remains one of the most comfortable ways to travel in the Philippines. The new airport affords travelers this convenience, said Tajanlangit, thus encouraging more people to discover the beauty of other island destinations.

Tajanlangit further bared that since last year, the 7107 Islands Cruise ship, the country’s first cruise ship, has been bringing tourists to the various attractions in this tourism triangle – particularly Puerto Galera in Mindoro, the Calamianes group of Islands in Northern Palawan, and Boracay. Thus sparking interest and enthusiasm in other tourists.

At the same time, Tajanlangit disclosed that a tourism explosion is poised to take place in Northern Palawan, with Coron town undertaking infrastructure developments to service tourism. According to Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, several well-established international tourism developers like Banyan Tree and 2 Seasons have already committed to putting up investments in the islands of Palawan.

Another potential Tajanlangit has seen is Tablas Island just four kilometers away from Carabao Island. The place has a natural cove wide enough and deep enough to be ideal for international marina development. Again, Tajanlangit said, the new international airport can make this prospect viable.

Tajanlangit said the airport project is an answer to the President’s call for more investments in tourism and infrastructure. The firm thanked the President for her full support of their project.

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