About 15 years ago, the Philippine Government requested the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to prepare a plan to convert the DZ Romualdez Airport in Tacloban City into an international one. Japanese experts, in consultation with the Department of Transportation, completed a development plan for the airport. Unfortunately, the plan remained a plan. Not much was known about it, until a few years ago when the project was revived, and funding started to flow.
Slowly the components of the project came into being, something like being resurrected from the dead. A new Control Tower is already operational; the New Passenger Terminal Building is halfway done but has been delayed for almost one year. Runway-related components are in process like site acquisition.Overall, upgrading the airport from domestic to international is a complicated process. Many components must come together to make the conversion successful.
Completing this project (Phases I to III) by 2025 will be a massive accomplishment for the national government. In this part of the country, it is unparalleled in planning, inter-agency coordination, funding, execution, and, undoubtedly, its impact on the region’s economy. Once completed, the region will be ready for take-off. It will significantly boost tourism and trade. But not just yet.
There are many obstacles. These problems notably include delays in the construction of the New Passenger Terminal Building (with a seating capacity of 1,670) and the acquisition of lots.
In the RDC, the Regional Project Monitoring Committee is now meeting once a month (instead of the usual every three months) to solve serious implementation problems in this project. I am privileged to be allowed to attend these meetings as one of the representatives of the private sector.
I have only attended two meetings, but I have been able to point out two improvements. First, Phases II and III of the project be fused into one because the project components of these two phases can be prosecuted simultaneously.
The Department of Transportation and the Civil Aeronautics Authority will undertake Phases II and III simultaneously next year. Its funding: something in the vicinity of 1.4 billion pesos.I will elaborate on this in next week’s issue.
The second point is the delayed acquisition of privately-owned lots. Many of these lots are in the expansion area of the runway. If a problem is encountered through the legal maneuverings of even a single landowner, the runway length will be short of international standards. It will continue to be classified as a domestic airport, limiting its use. There is a strict legal process in the government’s exercise of the power of eminent domain. And this can take a long time.
No matter how large the fund for lot acquisition is, money cannot shorten the process if the legal process takes a long time because there are too many lots and lot owners to deal with.
The City Government of Tacloban is helping speed up site acquisition. It has constituted a committee for this purpose.If it cannot get the job done on time, this will be another reason for the delay in completing this project.