Surigao airport rehab fast-tracked as Andanar intervenes

Communications Secretary Martin M. Andanar along with the Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary Banoy Lopez and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director-General Jim C. Sydiongco inspect the runway and batching area of the Surigao Airport rehabilitation project on August 7, 2019. Contributed photo

The repair and widening of the quake-hit Surigao Airport runway remain on track despite several conflicts faced by the contractors that halted the project for several years as Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar was asked to facilitate it with the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

“For how many months now, tuloy-tuloypoangaming coordination ni Sec. Art Tugade, akobilangSurigaonon, and Secretary Art namanbilang Department of Transportation Secretary,” Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar said in a press briefing on Wednesday as the officials inspected the Surigao Airport runway site and batching site.

“Dahil po sa pakiusap, tuloy na po yung ugnayan namin ni Sec. Art Tugade,” he added.

On June 3 this year, the Provincial Capitol of Surigao Del Norte adopted Resolution No. 103 Series of 2019 asking PCOO Secretary Andanar to intervene in the delayed repair of the Surigao Airport. The Surigao City Chamber of Commerce & Industry Inc. also adopted a resolution on June 15, 2019 seeking the same.

As Andanar sought to fast-track the project, he was given the affirmation by the DOTr to make a catch-up plan to reach full operational capability by February 2020.

“Kahit hindi nasimulan noon, hahabulin po talaga ng DOTr ang mga buwan na hindi na simulan para po tayo makaabot sa deadline mismo,” the PCOO chief said.

The widening of the Surigao Airport runway began last October 2015, but did not proceed as planned as HERBANA Builders, the contractor for the project then, declared bankruptcy and left the project hanging.

Last February 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit Surigao City that damaged the runway, only being able to utilize 1,000 meters from the original 1,700 meters. This led to the suspension of seven weekly Philippine Airlines flights between Manila and Surigao.

While the DOTr already issued a notice to proceed to new contractors Pacific Concrete and VT Lao Construction for the Surigao Airport Development Project and secured fresh funding of P123.5 million from the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Fund, the construction did not start promptly.

“Sa kasamaang palad, nagkaroon tayo ng bagyo dito at may mga tulay, limang tulay po ang nasira at hindi ‘ho passable in the sense that nagbigayang DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) para sa kaligtasan ng lahat ng mananakay at sa mga biyahero may limitasyon kung ilan lang ang kayang i-biyahe,” DOTr Assistant Secretary Giovanni Lopez said.

However, Andanar and Lopez agreed that the contractors should set-up a concrete plant and batching plant near the airport to avoid similar delays in the future.

“Totoong naantala.Pero kahit ang original contract duration, which is February 2020, that is non-negotiable. Yan po ang ginagawa natin, ginagawan po ng paraan ngayon. ‘Yan po ang mangyayari, we will deliver on the same period of time regardless of the delay. Reasonable or unreasonable, gagawin po natin yan,” Lopez said.

Lopez said that the runway’s partial operation of up to 1,400 meters is possible by November to resume the operations of seven weekly Manila-Surigao Philippine Airlines flights.

He said that this will accommodate for the high demand of flights in the Christmas season. (PR)

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