In an interview, Caticlan International Airport Development Corp. (CIADC) president Lino Barte said his firm, which won the right to undertake the P2.5-billion project, would start clearing the hill blocking one end of the runway by January 2010.
“We will need about three months to partially reduce its height,” he said, explaining that the first stage calls for CIADC to shave off approximately one-third from the existing 45-meter high hill.
Reducing the hill by this much will allow larger aircraft used by Cebu Pacific and Zest Air—currently servicing only the Kalibo airport, one and a half hours away by land—to ferry tourists directly to Caticlan.
“We expect to receive our ‘notice to proceed’ from the Neda-ICC within the next few weeks,” Barte said, referring to the Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic and Development Authority.
The Caticlan airport expansion will be made over a seven-year construction period, after which CIADC will operate it under a 25-year, build-operate-transfer (BOT) contract.
CIADC is owned by businessman George Yang—the former owner of the local McDonald’s franchise—who also chairs the firm.
Barte said it will take another six months to completely level the hill and move an estimated 1 million cubic feet of earth to an adjoining property to make way for the eventual extension of the runway, from its present length of 890 meters to the 1,900 meters needed to accommodate Airbus A320 passenger jets.
“We will also build a new airport terminal that can accommodate 1.5 million passengers a year,” he said.
At present, an estimated 800,000 passengers pass through the cramped Caticlan airport terminal. Other tourists are forced to take the long and inconvenient land route via Kalibo.
This inefficient system erodes the attractiveness of Boracay as a tourist destination as many international tourists are put off by the inconvenience.
Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Administration of the Philippines (CAAP) director general Ruben Ciron said the CIADC project will serve as a test case since it will be the first time a Philippine airport will be run by a private corporation—a trend that has long been established in other countries.