If not for the rains, the Kabankalan City airport could have been operational next month, Negros Occidental Vice-Gov. Genaro Alvarez Jr. said.
Alvarez said the Kabankalan airport, until the construction of the runway is almost completed, is capable of accommodating a 30 to 50-seater plane once it is operational.
The navigational equipment to be used by the Kabankalan airport came from the old Bacolod airport.
Alvarez said the Maricalum Mining Company airstrip in Brgy. San Jose, Sipalay City, was also turned over by its management to the local government unit of Sipalay.
He added that the MMC airstrip in Sipalay can also accommodate light planes, such as a 10-seater King Air and Queen Air plane.
The two airports in the cities of Kabankalan and Sipalay will further boost the economy and tourism development of southern Negros, Alvarez said.
The more airports in southern Negros, the better, he added, stressing that “in case of emergency, planes may land in Kabankalan and Sipalay airports.”
The 104-hectare airport being built in Brgy. Hilamonan, Kabankalan City, has a runway of about 2 kilometers, and has a budget of about P200 million. It is jointly funded by the Kabankalan and the provincial governments
Kabankalan also tapped the heavy equipment of the Army’s 542nd Engineering Construction Battalion in the leveling of the runway, at less expense for the LGU.
Alvarez said the Sipalay airstrip may be operational in several days, if it is developed immediately, as it only needs heavy equipment such as grader and road roller to level the runway.
Once operational, the Kabankalan airport will be the second airport in Negros Occidental, after Bacolod-Silay City International Airport, and the third airport in Negros island.
Alvarez said the navigational equipment will be installed as soon as the runway is cemented. He added, he sees no problem about the budget for the development of the airstrip in Sipalay.
Mayor Isidro Zayco said the Kabankalan airport will be crucial in providing market access and better delivery of basic social services and will further improve economic activity and the booming tourism industry in southern Negros.
Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (Neg. Occ., 6th District) has assured her full support to the development of the Kabankalan airport and Sipalay airstrip.
Sipalay City, known for its diving sites, clean and powdery brown sand beaches, and hidden lagoons, is getting more popular among European tourists.
Mayor Oscar Montilla said they recorded about 50,000 European tourists, who visit Sipalay annually, because of its natural attractions.
Montilla said majority of the bookings for visits to Sipalay, which he said is fast becoming the “Boracay” of Negros Occidental, are being made in Europe. Almost all owners of the beach resorts in Sipalay are Europeans, married to Negrenses.*GPB