Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Relocation of Catarman airport considered

TACLOBAN CITY — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is considering the relocation of Catarman Airport to ensure safety. 

This even as Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) announced that it was resuming its Manila-Catarman service next week.Sergio Sumergido, CAAP acting area manager for Eastern Visayas, said relocating the airport to a less crowded site would prevent runway incursions by people or vehicles."We are thinking of looking for another place. There’s no more room for improvement or expansion at the present site because it is very close to residential area and some key structures of the town," Mr. Sumergido said in a phone interview with BusinessWorld.Cebu Pacific suspended early this month its Manila-Catarman service because of safety issues.

Although authorities have prohibited people and vehicles from using the runway to get to the town center, several runway intrusions have been noted.The airline announced last week that it will resume its four-times weekly Manila-Catarman flights starting June 2 after airport and local authorities stepped up security measures."The runway has been cleared of vehicles and people 24/7. This is our green light to fly again to Catarman and bring back CEB’s affordable fares that other airlines must again try to match," 

Candice Iyog, CEB vice-president for marketing and distribution, said in a statement.Ms. Iyog said airport safety was improved after additional security personnel were deployed on the runway and authorities started the construction of a perimeter fence."Airport authorities have also blocked the entry points around the airport’s perimeter fence used by residents," she added.

Mr. Sumergido also said that apart from employing more security personnel, they have also sought the deployment of some policemen and military personnel at the airport to ensure that there will be no more incursions.Responding to the appeal of the public, the CAAP allows use of the barangay road crossing the runway from 4:30 a.m. to 6 a.m., and from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. "From 6 a.m. to 5 p.m., we don’t allow any disturbances," Mr. Sumergido added. Cebu Pacific uses the airport only until 10:45 a.m.

Other airlines that serve the route are PAL (Philippine Airlines) Express, which has daily flights, and Zest Air, which flies to the town every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday.Cebu Pacific started its service to Catarman last February 14, with scheduled flights every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Catarman is a second class municipality and the capital town of Northern Samar province.

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