Daraga, Albay—The Bicol International Airport being built here, targeted for completion next year, is seen to unlock the tourism potential of Southern Luzon, according to Albay Rep. Joey Sarte Salceda.
The Albay lawmaker noted that with the country’s encouraging trend on tourism, the BIA is expected to play a major role in achieving a target potential of 20 million tourist arrivals annually.
Last Week, tourism officials reported a record high 7.6 percent growth, or about 2.2 million arrivals in the first quarter of the year. They said this was boosted primarily by “a lot of direct flights by our carriers, most specially the newly established routes with Japan and Australia.”
South Korea has remained the Philippines’ top source of foreign tourists, followed by China, the United States, Japan and Australia.
Salceda said the report was an “impressive performance, and that the Philippines is now starting to achieve its envisioned (target of) 20 million tourist arrivals per year.”
The solon said Bicol would be hailed as the “Most Scenic Gateway” the country would ever have, and that the role of the BIA “will be huge since the Department of Tourism has upped its campaign in bringing foreign ambassadors to the country’s globally known, yet less-visited destinations.”
Tourists flying in via the BIA will land right in the heart of the Bicol region’s tourism hub, Albay province, home to the iconic Mayon Volcano and the Cagsawa Ruins without travelling far from the airport to visit them, the lawmaker pointed out.
Salceda expressed optimism that with its P4.798-billion budget, the project will be completed before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.
Pushed by Salceda during his earlier stint in Congress and later as Albay governor and Bicol Regional Development Council chairman for nine years, the BIA project started in 2005 but construction began only in earnest in 2009.
Despite being hampered by several hitches and delays, Salceda, said the project now has “reasonable optimism that the executive decisiveness of the Duterte administration could deliver the BIA, a vital infrastructure to the main potential of Bicol and Southern Luzon, and which is also crucial to country’s development program.”
Last month the Department of Transportation reported that BIA’s construction was 57.44 percent complete.
“The airside of the airport comprising its airstrip, runway, taxiway, apron and perimeter and fence is already 100% complete, while the land-side comprising all the buildings and site development are currently in the works,” the April 12 DOTr report said.
The Bicol International Airport is expected to accommodate two million passengers annually with its new and higher capacity facilities, and enhanced operational safety complemented by modern technology.
It is seen to boost Bicol’s tourism arrivals and help push the development of the entire Bicol region, and Albay in particular as an economic powerhouse.