|Airport Upgrades in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi Pick Up Pace|
ZAMBOANGA CITY—Major airport runway improvements now ongoing in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi are expected to improve air linkages with the rest of the country, and help boost the economy of the Sulu Archipelago.
The main airports in both provinces are being improved and extended through partnerships between the Department of Transportation and Communications, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the provincial governments, and the United States government, through USAID’s Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) Program.
“These improvements will ensure safer airport operations and higher-capacity air linkages,” said Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana, Sr., chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council, which oversees the implementation of the GEM Program.
Both runway improvement projects are currently more than 50 percent complete.
In Sulu, the Jolo airport project includes replacing and widening the existing asphalt runway, and extending it from 1,200 meters to 1,845 meters.
In Tawi-Tawi, the Sanga-Sanga (Bongao) airport runway is being extended from 1,611 meters to 1,930 meters, and widened to 30 meters.
The two airport projects, whose construction is being fast-tracked, are both expected to be completed by the end of August 2009.
Following the improvements, larger aircraft used by major domestic carriers, such as A320s and B737s, will be able to land at these two airports.
“There is great potential in eco-tourism here, especially if air links to neighboring countries are established,” said Abdelnooh Hajirul, president of the Tawi-Tawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “Our waters are ideal for culturing high-value commercial marine species like grouper and abalone which are exported to Asian markets.”
In Tawi-Tawi, the airport upgrade is being complemented by an ongoing bridge-road partnership project, involving the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the provincial government, and USAID’s GEM Program.
The bridge-road project will directly link for the first time Sanga-Sanga island—where the airport is located—and the provincial capitol to the largest island of Tawi-Tawi Province.
As part of the project, DPWH and DPWH-ARMM are constructing three steel bridges, and a road linking two of the bridges, on the islet of Bakhaw Dakula.
The 8.4-km road connecting the bridges to the Tawi-Tawi island highway network are being upgraded by DPWH-ARMM, while the 9.3-km road connecting the Sanga-Sanga side is being upgraded by the United States government.
In Sulu, another major project is the ongoing upgrade of the Jolo water system, through a partnership between the provincial government, Local Water Utilities Administration, Jolo Mainland Water District, and the GEM Program, which will make the water district capable of providing potable water to about 70,000 residents.
Published in www.mb.com.ph, May 15, 2009; Manila Bulletin, May 16, 2009; www.businessmirror.com,ph, May 18, 2009; Business Mirror, May 19, 2009; www.bworldonline.com, May 22, 2009; Business World, May 22, 2009