'Testing lang': Tugade lands on Bicol International Airport ahead of target completion date

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade landed on the Bicol International Airport (BIA) in Daraga, Albay from Manila on Friday, July 30, ahead of its target completion in September this year.

Tugade landed on the BIA runway on Friday morning aboard Gulfstream 150 to check the ongoing progress of the airport, which currently stands at 90 percent in terms of completion rate.

According to Tugade, the probing flight fulfills his promise to return to the province by end of July and land on the airport’s runway, as well as to prove that the gateway remains on track for its target completion by September 2021.

Shortly after landing, Tugade along with other transport and local government officials inspected the airport's facilities such as the runway lights, arrival area, check-in counters, and pre-departure area.

In a virtual briefing after the inspection, Tugade expressed optimism that the airport project will be finished on time.

He likewise shared how meaningful the test landing was for him as the airport project suffered various challenges and setbacks during the period of construction.

"Marami po kaming dinaanan na problema at difficulties dito. Twenty-five years ago pa po ito pinagpaplanuhan at hinihintay ng ating mga kababayang Bicolano at ngayon, sa wakas ay matatapos na (We have gone through many difficulties because of this. We have been planning this for the past 25 years and Bicolanos have been waiting and now it is finally over),” he added.

Meanwhile, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Jim Sydiongco reckoned that with the non-stop construction, the BIA will be technically operational for commercial aircraft for day operations by October 7 and will be night-rated by November 4 this year.

Dubbed as the country’s "Most Scenic Gateway" with the iconic Mayon Volcano serving as its backdrop, the BIA is expected to accommodate a total of two million passengers per year once fully operational.