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5 Things You Need to Know About the New Bicol International Airport

Travelers will still get to see Mayon Volcano from the airport.
IMAGE Facebook / Legazpi City
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The Bicol International Airport (BIA) is a new international airport envisioned to be the new gateway to the Bicol region. Located in Daraga, Albay, the new airport will replace the old one in Legazpi City. After supertyphoon Rolly battered the region last weekend, there were concerns of some damage to the airport, which is still being built. Thankfully, damage was minimal, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

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Here are a few things you should know about the new Bicol International Airport:

1| The airport has been on the drawing board since the 1990s

For decades, travelers to Albay and other nearby provinces in the Bicol region have gone through the airport in Legazpi City. A feasibility study for a new airport in the region stretches as far back as 1996, but more concrete talks of building a new airport started in the mid-2000s, when then-President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved an initial budget of P1.2 billion for the project. 

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The idea was to replace the aging Legazpi airport with a new airport that would meet international standards and spur the growth of travel and tourism in the region.

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2| The BIA’s projected cost is nearly P5 billion

After several bid notices in 2012 and 2013, the Department of Transportation initially awarded the contract to build the runway, taxiway, apron and perimeter fence of the Bicol International Airport to Sunwest Construction and Development Corporation, led by its president and CEO Elizaldy Co. The Notice of Award issued in June 2013 indicated the project cost at just over P708 million. 

According to the Philippine News Agency, as of June 24, 2020, Package 2A of the airport development project, which is handled by Sunwest Construction, is already 81 percent complete. Package 2A covers the landside facilities, such as the administration building, air traffic control building, crash fire rescue building, and the maintenance building.

Meanwhile, Package 2B, which is handled by E.M. Cuerpo and which covers the construction of the passenger terminal building (PTB) and the runway, was 34 percent complete. 

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Based on several media reports, the total cost of the entire project is now about P4.978 billion.

3| The airport has faced multiple delays

Originally scheduled to open in 2014, the Biciol International Airport has faced numerous delays, mostly involving construction and budget issues. The coronavirus pandemic and weather issues also have not helped fast-track the project. There was also a reported attack by suspected members of the New People’s Army in September 2017. 

Construction of the new airport resumed in 2018 after being put on hold for 11 years, according to the DOTr.

The project was 68 percent complete as of September 2020. The DOTr meanwhile said construction of the airport is still on track to be completed by the end of the year and is committed to have it fully operational by early 2021.  

4| The airport will handle two million passengers annually

In 2018, the existing Legazpi airport handled a total of 569,535 passengers, according to data from the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. The new Bicol International Airport will increase that figure more than 251 percent to two million passengers annually. Eventually, that number will increase even further to 4.4 million passengers when the entire project is completed.

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The figure aligns with projections of increased tourism in the region, according to the Department of Tourism.

“Once fully operational, this airport is envisioned to be a major factor in transforming Albay province, and the Bicol region, into an economic powerhouse,” the DOTr said.

5| The airport will still have a view of Mayon Volcano

One of the advantages of the Legazpi Airport is the majestic view of Mayon volcano. Because the airport is located just over two kilometers away, passengers could marvel at the perfectly shaped cone just before takeoff or right after landing (provided that the volcano isn’t obscured by clouds).

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Officials say the new Bicol International Airport will still have a view of the volcano, although it’s a bit farther away. Located on a piece of land measuring 200 hectares, it’s 15 kilometers away from the volcano, which experts say is safer considering Mayon is still an active volcano.

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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