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Nearly finished Maasin City airport projects trigger hope for viable, commercial operation soon

The construction of essential infrastructure developments, such as landside and airside facilities, necessary for the successful operation of Maasin City Airport in Southern Leyte, are almost complete. This development has raised the expectations and hopes of the local community, as they anticipate that commercial airlines will consider adding the city to their list of route expansion options.

Landside construction projects typically involve constructing multi-storey buildings and installing concrete roads that link the airport terminal to the surrounding areas. On the other hand, airside construction projects are focused on expanding the existing runway to increase its length and width, allowing larger aircraft to land and take off.

Christopher Arbiol, the project engineer, declared that they “are very much ready when an airline company comes in for domestic flights,” following a site inspection tour with the members of the local media.

The Maasin airport terminal building with the control tower and fire station on the right, which are currently under construction.  (Photo courtesy of Jade Nombrado, Bandilyo newspaper editor and DYDM program director)

The administrative office and staff house for airport operations have been completed. These structures are intended to serve as personnel monitoring and inspection quarters. Construction of the rescue and firefighting building and the adjacent 9-storey control tower is still ongoing.

Another almost complete structure is the cargo terminal, which will be used to unload cargo transported by cargo planes before distribution.

Airline executives’ suggestion

In 2016, top managers from leading commercial airline companies visited Maasin City’s airport, also known as Panan-awan Airport, located in Barangay Panan-awan.

They inspected the airport and suggested actions that needed to be taken for compliance to attract attention to possible inclusion in expanded flight operations. These actions include a 24/7 fire and rescue station and a communications center to manage air traffic, which would require a control tower.

Arbiol mentioned that the fire and rescue station and communication center projects are expected to be completed by the middle of this year or early next year.

The 9-storey control tower, bathed in scaffolding, and the rescue and fire station are targeted to be finished early next year.  (Photo courtesy of Gevic Epiz, Radio Pilipinas-Sogod)

One of the most recommended priority moves was extending the existing runway. This process has already begun, and the runway will be lengthened from 1.3 kilometers to 1.8 kilometers.

Extending the runway beyond the 1.5-kilometer mark posed a challenge due to a deep land cleavage, which must be filled with gabions to provide strong slope protection. The process requires layers upon layers of compacting, which may take longer; however, the project engineer, Eduard Bonita, remains confident that the airside will be completed on time.

Workers are preparing to pour concrete on this section of the extended runway beyond the existing 1.5 kilometers. (Photo courtesy of Jade Nombrado, Bandilyo newspaper editor and DYDM program director)
DPWH District Engineer Manolo Rojas pointed to a portion of a barrier and slope protection reinforced with gabions.  (Photo: PIA Southern Leyte)

Convergence project

Aside from extending the runway, the latest project was to widen it from the existing 30 meters wide to 45 meters by concreting each side with an additional 7.5 meters. This was carried out to accommodate Airbus and 80-seater planes, as these big airplanes are projected to arrive in the future.

“The funding support that has been poured into the airport’s development since 2022 is sufficient for it to operate domestically,” said Engr. Manolo Rojas, district engineer of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).  He added that the runway was widened early in anticipation of the arrival of Airbus.

DPWH District Engineer Manolo Rojas disclosed that the development of Maasin Airport was a joint effort of three government agencies: the Department of Transportation (DoTr), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and DPWH. Engr. Christopher Arbiol is responsible for the control tower, fire station, and Engr. Eduard Bonita, responsible for the runway extension, also answered some questions during the briefing.  (Photo: PIA Southern Leyte)

“Development of the Maasin Airport is a convergence project with the Department of Transportation (DoTr), in which our agency, being the infrastructure arm of the government, was the one implementing. We do the work, but since the DPWH will not operate or develop an airport, we are always under close monitoring by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the agency that has mandates on airports,” Rojas explained during the media briefing at the airport.

Over the past couple of years until this year, the total budget for the continued upgrade and improvement, including rehabilitation of damaged airport facilities, mostly access roads, caused by typhoons Odette and Agaton, has reached a total of P1.5 billion for ten projects. 

Feeder to commercial

The business community, especially the dive operators in Padre Burgos town, also looked forward to a fully operational air bridge offering fast travel to foreign tourists, especially dive enthusiasts.

Netizens from Southern Leyte and other provinces mostly agreed, heaping positive reactions to social media posts, particularly the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who wished Cebu-Maasin and Maasin-Manila flights, even once a week, could be established sooner.

Early airport construction began in the 1970s, and CAAP has since classified it as a feeder airport.  It has long been used by flying school students who are learning how to fly a plane during takeoff and landing.

A small Cessna plane is a typical sight at Maasin Airport as flying school students from Mactan, Cebu, Dumaguete, and others learn to land and fly at the airport.  (Photo:  PIA Southern Leyte)

Small aircraft, such as privately-owned Cessna planes used by dignitaries visiting the province on special occasions, have landed at the Maasin airport. These include former President Rodrigo Roa Duterte, who was on an aerial inspection tour following Typhoon Odette.

At the height of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, Maasin Airport played a crucial role as a jumping-off point for delivering various supplies to Tacloban and other badly hit areas as planes ferrying relief goods landed there for emergency operations.

But more than a site that can be used during calamities, the commercial operation of Maasin Airport has long been anticipated, and with the progress of development works that are now ongoing and fully supported by DoTr, CAAP, and DPWH, that day may already be on the horizon. (MMP, PIA Southern Leyte)

About the Author

Marcelo Pedalino

Regional Editor

Region 8

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