The upgrade of major regional airports in the Philippines is a must if the government wants to sustain the robust economic growth rate in the last few years. Airports, like railways and roads, transport people and goods, and open economic and trade opportunities. They promote tourism that directly translates into more job opportunities.
One conglomerate has just offered under an unsolicited proposal to modernize four airports in Visayas and Mindanao for P148 billion over a 35-year concession period. The Aboitiz Group says “sustainable airport facilities” are needed to reflect and support the tremendous economic and tourism potential of the Philippines’ regions and provinces.
It noted that four regional gateways—Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Laguindingan Airport and New Bohol International Airport in Panglao—are key entry points into Visayas and northern Mindanao.
The number of local and foreign travelers in the four regional destinations has increased by leaps and abounds in recent years, with the four airports struggling to keep pace with the rapid economic development in the four regions.
The Iloilo and Bacolod airports, for one, have been operating for 10 years, while Laguindingan opened in 2013 but has been operating over its capacity since its opening year. The three can no longer meet increased tourism demand and require urgent rehabilitation. New Bohol, meanwhile, needs an upgrade to accommodate the influx of more tourists into the island.
Building more and modernizing airports are critical infrastructure projects that the government canceled in 2017. President Rodrigo Duterte and the Cabinet, thus, should revisit the regional airports modernization program in step with the country’s tourism roadmap.
The Philippines has the fewest visitor arrivals in Southeast Asia because of poor airport facilities, notably the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and inadequate road and rail networks. But more foreign tourists will soon discover and visit the Philippines as a result of an aggressive marketing pitch. The Philippines by that time should be ready with modern regional airports to accommodate the rising tourism demand.