Batac: Upgrade of Laoag Airport continues to entice Regional Flights

(Photo courtesy of Leilanie Adriano via PNA)

The Laoag International Airport in Ilocos Norte will provide more efficient air travel experience as well as improved connectivity within the Ilocos Region with its PHP2-billion upgrade.

Data presented by Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Area Center 1 manager Ronald Estabillo on Tuesday showed PHP150 million is allocated for the rehabilitation of the terminal building; PHP595 million for the ongoing asphalt overlay of the runway as well as provision of baggage carousel and construction of the Department of Transportation (DOTr)-Project Management Office; PHP128 million for the runway strip grade correction and construction of turning pad; and PHP29 million for the expansion of apron to accommodate bigger aircrafts.

The DOTr earlier allotted PHP1 billion for the acquisition of a 150-hectare private lot needed for the continuing upgrade, he added during the Kapihan sa Bagong Pilipinas briefing held in San Fernando City, La Union.

CAAP data also indicated that movements of commercial, general aviation, and military aircraft jumped to as much as 185 percent year-on-year in February, the highest so far this year.

This, after 974 planes utilized the airport facilities in the second month of the year, up from 342 in the same period last year.

The year-on-year rise in January is at 105 percent, 138 percent in March and 73 percent in April.

Estabillo said community airports also registered higher number of flights — as high as 185 percent for Laoag airport and 162 percent for Vigan airport.

Estabillo said most of the ongoing development projects are expected to be completed in November this year, while upgrading of the terminal building will be completed by August 2025.

To enhance Ilocos Region’s connectivity and mobility, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. had vowed to make basic developments such as road improvements for easier access to tourism spots, upgrading of airports, and creation of more international airports to help decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila.

“We have been looking forward to the revival of the Laoag-Honolulu flights so that we will no longer have a hard time visiting our motherland,” Sandy Lasquero, a Hawaii-based construction worker from Cagayan province, said in an interview.

From Hawaii, Lasquero said he needs to take a nine-hour flight to reach NAIA and a one-hour flight to Laoag before the two-and-a-half-hour land travel to Claveria town.

Hong Kong-based worker Alma Gaoiran of Burgos, Ilocos Norte, who is on vacation to attend her daughter’s graduation, also expressed excitement about the ongoing development at Laoag airport.

“I wish that direct flights from Laoag to Hong Kong will materialize soon so that it will become more convenient for us to come home,” she told the Philippine News Agency.

Other flights being targeted once the ongoing development projects are completed are routes to Japan and Korea.

To date, Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Sky Pasada fly regularly to and from Laoag airport which can accommodate 450 passengers at the same time.

Meanwhile, PAL will terminate its Laoag-Cebu and vice versa flights on June 28 as it streamlines its operations and focuses on more profitable routes.

“Passengers of the cancelled flight Cebu-Laoag-Cebu will be provided the necessary assistance. We remain supportive of local government’s initiatives in promoting Laoag as a destination,” the flag carrier said in a statement on Tuesday.

To boost regional connectivity between Northern Luzon and Central Visayas, the Ilocos Norte provincial government has agreed to shoulder as much as 20 seats per flight for at least six months since the inaugural direct flight to Laoag on Dec. 15, 2023.

The partnership resulted in bi-weekly flights (Tuesdays and Fridays) using the 86-seater De Havilland Dash 8-400 next-generation aircraft.

Ilocos Norte Governor Matthew Joseph Manotoc expressed hope that the suspension of the Laoag-Cebu route is just temporary and it will be revived on a seasonal basis.

“We face some challenges with the viability or load of Cebu-Laoag because, in Cebu, there are a lot of options with very competitive options as compared to Laoag,” he said in an interview. (Leilanie Adriano)

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