Boracay: Will upgraded Caticlan airport overwhelm the island?

Boracay: Will upgraded Caticlan airport overwhelm the island?

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Considering there are many emerging locations in the Philippines. And Boracay is only 10 square kilometers in area (as a comparison, Ko Samui is 228 square kilometers).

Our biggest tourist destination is about to get even bigger. The new airport in Caticlan, costing P5.3 billion, is set to be completed by year end 20 15 and that means Airbus 320s that used to land in Kalibo will use Caticlan as the gateway airport to Boracay. It is a 25 year Built, Rehabilitate, Operate and Transfer project.

The current runway of 30 meters x 950 meters will be extended to 45 meters x 1800 meters to satisfy international standards for aircrafts like the A320. Construction of the runway will be done by end of this year. Also to be constructed is a taxiway.

The new airport being constructed by San Miguel in Caticlan will also have a terminal building that can service 12 aircrafts at a time with 12 air bridges. That’s a far cry from the current terminal building that gets crowded with just two or three flights of smaller aircrafts.

The new airport will also have the latest navigational system to make it an all weather airport. It will also have night landing facilities, something most of our airports outside our major airports do not have. No more daily flight cancellations due to sunset limitation.

That probably means the Kalibo airport that now takes in direct foreign flights from South Korea and other countries will return to its previous status as a typical decrepit provincial airport. Right now, it is an embarrassing gateway to foreign tourists vacationing in Boracay.

Kalibo airport is now so congested that many foreign and domestic flights are asked to land first in Mactan and wait. The clearance to land in Kalibo is given only after earlier flights leave. Something like what is now happening in Bohol.

San Miguel’s Ramon Ang told me over lunch before the Holy Week that he has other big plans for the tourist island. He is thinking about a bridge that will connect Boracay to the mainland. I understand initial feasibility study is underway.

Just so the “boatmen” don’t lose their livelihood, RSA will help them buy vehicles that will take the tourists from Caticlan to Boracay. The bridge will also enable basic utility connections and even a facility to take the island’s sewage to the mainland for processing, sparing Boracay’s beaches from e coli infestation or worse.

San Miguel is also planning tourism facilities in Caticlan itself where the conglomerate owns about 20 hectares adjacent to the airport. More reasonably priced hotel rooms and a convention center will be constructed in the mainland and tourists may just elect to go to the Boracay beaches during the day.

I am told that San Miguel will help develop the tourism potential of mainland Aklan towns when the new Caticlan airport opens for business. An appropriate health care center equipped to handle common medical emergencies will be put up. Other services required by tourism establishments can also be provided on the mainland.

I was looking at a picture of a Boracay beach last Holy Week and it reminded me of Plaza Miranda during rush hour. I am not sure Boracay can stand more tourists pouring in, but if the pressure can be spread more evenly to cover the adjacent mainland towns, maybe. I just hope there is enough environmental planning and execution of proper rules.

Phil Star

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