THE ILOILO International Airport, one of only two Philippine airports voted among the 20 best in Asia in an online survey, has actually been operating at double its capacity.
Department of Tourism-Western Visayas (DoT-6) Regional Director Helen J. Catalbas said while they toast to the recognition, it also highlights the need to fast-track the airport’s expansion.
“It ranked number 18 because it’s crowded, but once we expand, who knows we can further improve our rating,” she said in an interview.
The government-run airport, located in the town of Cabatuan about 30 kilometers from Iloilo City, ranked 18th in the the 2019 survey of airport guide and resource site sleepinginairport.net.
The other Philippine airport that made it to the list at number 16 is the Mactan Cebu International Airport, managed by private firm GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp.
“Now, the airport seems okay because we are just starting with our MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) promotions, but as we go on with our campaign, more people will go to Iloilo. That is the reality, so if we want to have more tourists we need to expand our airport,” Ms. Catalbas said.
The Iloilo airport, which opened in 2007, was designed to cater to 1.2 million passengers a year, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. In recent years, the airport has been handling 2.4 million passengers annually.
“Our airport already reached its passenger capacity, eight years ago before the target,” the DoT official said.
CAAP Iloilo Terminal Supervisor Art Parreño said there has been no recent update on the proposed airport expansion.
“We don’t have any information as to the realization of that, but how CAAP wishes that the project will be pursued,” he said in a phone interview.
In June, CAAP granted an original proponent status to the unsolicited proposal submitted by the Villar Group of real estate magnate Manuel B. Villar, Jr.
The proposal has been forwarded to the National Economic and Development Authority for evaluation and approval before undergoing a Swiss challenge.
Mr. Parreño said the expansion plan is particularly needed for the passenger terminal building.
“The passenger terminal building that we have right now was constructed to cater to domestic operations… We expanded to Hong Kong and Singapore destinations and now more and more airlines are offering new domestic destinations like the new Iloilo-Clark destination offered by Air Asia and Cebu Pacific,” he said.
Ms. Catalbas said the airport’s readiness to handle more passengers is a key component to the “Meet you in Iloilo” campaign, a P50-million program specifically targeted to promote the city as a MICE destination.
“We need all new facilities as addition to the capacity of Iloilo City as it poises itself to be a top MICE destination in this part of the country.” — Emme Rose S. Santiagudo
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