DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade assured that construction works of the Bicol International Airport will be completed within the year while the partial operability segment of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) Bicol is targeted up to the second quarter of 2022.
To ensure that the big-ticket infrastructure projects in the region remain on track, Tugade visited Albay Thursday to lead a series of inspections with other DOTr and local government officials.
First stop of the scheduled inspections is the much-awaited Bicol International Airport (BIA), of which construction works are 24/7 since last year on the directive of Tugade. He said the DOTr and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), under Director General Jim Sydiongco, will be pushing for the nonstop construction works at the airport to meet its target completion date within the year.
“Hangarin ko ho na matapos ang konstruksyon, at maging operational ang Bicol International Airport bago matapos ang taong ito,” Tugade said.
The BIA, known as the “Most Scenic Gateway” of the country, is now 82.22 percent complete after 13 years of delay. Once operational, it is expected to serve a total of two million passengers every year.
“Matagal na panahon na pong hinintay ng sambayanan, lalo’t higit ng mga Bicolano, ang pagtatapos nitong Bicol International Airport. Bago pa tayo dumating, mayroon nang tatlong groundbreaking ang nagawa rito. Ngayon ho, malapit nang matapos ang aktwal na konstruksyon nito,” Tugade said.
In terms of job generation, 755 jobs were created during the airport’s construction phase while 1,100 more indirect jobs await locals once the airport becomes operational.
“Dahil sa tuloy-tuloy na trabaho, inaasahan natin na makapagbibigay ang proyektong ito ng kabuhayan sa ating mga kababayang Bicolano,” Tugade said.
At present, the Package 2A of the BIA, which covers the construction of landside facilities and other buildings, is 94.40 percent complete, and is targeted to be finished this month.
Package 2B, covering the construction of the passenger terminal building and runway extension, as well as the construction of the taxiway, drainage and other site development works, is 68.14 percent complete, and is slated to be finished this June.
In addition, ongoing works for the embankment, and construction of access road and slope protection are now at 52.50 percent and are eyed for completion this October.
Meanwhile, Tugade and the DOTr team also inspected the alignment and the future location of the depot station of the PNR Bicol or the PNR South Long-Haul Project in Legazpi City, Albay.
The DOTr and the PNR eye the partial operations of the San Pablo, Candelaria, Lucena and Pagbilao segments between the first and second quarter of next year. Full operation of the PNR Bicol project is slated for the third quarter of 2025.
To recall, the DOTr signed a contract for the Project Management Consultant of the PNR Bicol in 2018. The basic detailed design for the Civil Works Package 1 (Banlic, Laguna to Daraga, Albay) is already finished.
The DOTr and the PNR also target to publish within May and to award the Civil Works Contract Package 1 in the third quarter of this year.
Additionally, onsite activities are ongoing for the PNR Bicol project, including a Land Parcellary Survey, and the preparation of an Environmental Impact Assessment.
“Inaasahan po natin na makapag-award po tayo ng unang contractor itong 3rd quarter ng 2021. Ongoing na rin po ang pag-aacquire natin ng mga lupa,” said DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Timothy John Batan.
About 560 kilometers long, the PNR Bicol railway line runs from Sucat, Parañaque in Metro Manila to Matnog in Sorsogon, and from Calamba to Batangas. Once operational, PNR Bicol is expected to reduce travel time between Manila and Legazpi from 14-18 hours to just 6 hours with regular commuter trains and 4.5 hours with express trains.
Around 20,000 jobs were generated during the construction phase of the rail project and is expected to generate 10,000 more local jobs once it becomes operational.
Also during the Bicol visit, Tugade, with Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Jay Santiago, committed the turnover of the administration and operation of the Pantao Port in Libon to the provincial government of Albay under Governor Al Francis Bichara effective June 1 this year.
Tugade assured that the transfer of the Pantao Port from the PPA to the Albay LGU was the subject of a thorough study.
“Matagal na hong mayroong exchange of communications, negotiations, at mga dayalogo d’yan. ‘Yung dayalogo kanina nagbigay ng punto pinal sa matagal nang pinag-uusapan,” Tugade explained.
“Sa pamamagitan po ng paglilipat ng administrasyon at operasyon ng Pantao Port ay inaasahan po natin na ito ay mas mapapakinabangan ng Lalawigan ng Albay dahil ito po ay magagamit doon sa mismong pangangailangan ng probinsya para po mapaunlad rin ang ekonomiya at komersyo ‘di lamang sa Libon kundi sa buong Albay,” Santiago said.