A tale of two cities

A tale of two cities

Oct 11, 2023, 1:27 AM
Atty. Junie Go-Soco

Atty. Junie Go-Soco


No, this is not about the novel of the same title written by Charles Dickens about families living in London and Paris. The two cities we are referring to are Tacloban City and Bacolod City. What the fuzz is this all about?

Well, it goes this way. We will flip the calendar by 26 years, to 1997.

That was the year the Regional Development Councils of Eastern Visayas and Western Visayas endorsed the Selected Airports Development Program of Tacloban City and Bacolod City.

Consultants from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) studied the two airports and recommended their expansion. What happened next will sadden anyone from Eastern Visayas. It could bring frustration and even tears.

The national government headed by President Fidel Ramos did not fund the project for Tacloban, but it funded the financial counterpart for Bacolod. Somebody told me at that time that the First Lady was from Bacolod City, that is why.

Another story at that time was the national government used the counterpart funding allotted for the Tacloban airport loan to partly fund the purchase of Navy ships.

The third information I got was the construction of the airport expansion will be funded through the national budget. Several billion pesos will be allotted at one billion per year.

I also received information that some officials were looking for a contractor who could put up ten percent for them.

In 2004, JICA funded a detailed engineering study of the Bacolod Airport. After that, a Japanese company won the bid and proceeded to successfully implement the project. In 2007, Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo inaugurated the brand-new Bacolod-Silay International Airport. International flights from Taiwan and South Korea have used this airport. Not many flights but they are international, nevertheless.

In 2022, 1.3 million passengers used the Bacolod-Silay Airport. Tacloban City fared better — at 1.5 million.

Imagine what that number would be if our Tacloban Airport became an international standard airport in the same year as Bacolod – 2007. That was a good 15 years ago.

Missed opportunities for us from Eastern Visayas. Why did we miss? We had a national leadership that did not favor expanding the Tacloban Airport; a Congressional Representative (Imelda Marcos) who was not with the administration then; and some officials who appeared to be hoping to get a fast buck through corruption. The cards were not stacked in our favor. We lost a golden opportunity.

Now, the tide has changed. Our fortunes have turned. We have President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. That is a combination we have never had before. It is a combination that will surely get things done.

This is where the situation at the Tacloban airport, which this column has covered in recent issues, has added meaning to us and our future as a region.

Unfortunately, the chosen contractor, for the P760-million Phase I of the project, MAC Builders from Ormoc City appears to have botched the job. It is more than a year behind schedule. No matter what adjustments the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) makes, the fact is that construction is more than 16 months delayed and the Tacloban Airport Development Project is not even half complete. There is still a Phase II and a Phase III. MAC has, without a shadow of a doubt, caused a chain reaction that could lead to a delay of three years.

That is a lot of lost revenues for many establishments in the region. It was around ten million pesos a day when I computed it recently, counting both the direct and the indirect (multiplier) effects. So, a three-year delay will mean a loss of 15 billion pesos. You read it right – a whooping fifteen billion pesos.

How will the tale of these two cities end?

Last time in this column, it was a ghost story with a suspenseful ending. Now this is drama in real life. There will be tears and joys. With the two top men of the country supporting this region, this story will have a happy ending. It will have more of the fun stuff.

#IAmBack #JunieGoSoco #ATaleOfTwoCities #CharlesDickens #Tacloban #Bacolod #RegionalDevelopmentCouncil #RDC #JapanInternationalCooperationAgency #EasternVisayas #FidelRamos #GloriaMacapagalArroyo #BacolodSilayInternationalAirport #ImeldaMarcos #BongBongMarcos #BBM #PBBM #Marcos #Romualdez #MACBuilders #CAAP #OpinYonColumn #OpinYon #WeTakeAStand

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