By Ali Macabalang
KIDAPAWAN CITY – Technical staff from the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) and Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) are now rallying behind the provincial government of North Cotabato in its bid to have the mothballed airport project in M’lang town undertaken soon.
DPWH and MinDA representatives met over the weekend here with local officials tasked to expedite the resolution of right-of-way (ROW) issues hampering the operation of the P460-million aviation project, known as Central Mindanao Airport (CMA), according to North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco.
The airport project construction started in 2007 under the administration of then North Cotabato governor Emmanuel Piñol with an initial funding of P300 million. Its terminal building and 1.2-kilometer runway at Barangay Tawan-tawan in M’lang town were inaugurated by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in November 2009.
But the operation of the facility has not started due to unresolved payment of lands and ROWs in the 62-hectare area occupied by the project, despite the allocation in 2013 of P160-million additional fund from the national government, according to reports.
The CMA’s 1.2-kilometer runway was used only in 2014 by cloud-seeding light aircrafts chartered by the provincial government at the height of El Nino or dry spell that year, reports said.
Catamco convened a meeting here with concerned landowners, led by former M’lang mayor Luigi Cuerpo, on August 2, during which the lady governor tasked provincial lawyer Jonah Mineses to hasten the processing of deeds of sales for the right-of-way properties.
But incumbent M’lang Mayor Russel Abonado, a lawyer, reportedly proposed in the weekend meeting here a survey on the airport-occupied lands, hinting at some demarcation discrepancies.
Provincial focal officials have reportedly agreed with the DPWH and MinDA technical representatives to hold follow-up dialogs meant to settle the land proprietary issue within this year.
Catamco was confident that the her administration could operationalize the project by next year to serve North Cotabato residents currently dependent to services of the bigger airports in Gen. Santos, Davao and Cotabato cities.
Meanwhile, Ali B. Sangki, a former executive director of the defunct Office on Muslim Affairs and ex-president of the Philippine Amanah Bank, has prodded the public about the long unfinished airport facility in President Quirino town in nearby Sultan Kudarat project.
Sangki, father of now Maguindanao Governor Mariam Sangki-Mangudadatu and father-in-law of Sultan Kudarat Gov. Suharto Mangudadatu, said the Marcos government had spent several millions of pesos for the airport project.
He said the project has been abandoned and ended up becoming the headquarters of an Army battalion for decades.