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Baguio eyes reopening Loakan Airport in 2020

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The city government is mulling the reopening of the Loakan Airport, which ceased commercial operations in the 1990s, through a public-private partnership (PPP).

LOAKAN AIRPORT. Cordillera region’s only airport located in Baguio City ceased commercial operations following the damage incurred by the earthquake that struck northern Luzon in 1990. The city government is planning to reopen the airport by 2020. (File photo courtesy of PIA-CAR)

In an interview with the Philippine News Agency (PNA), Mayor Benjamin Magalong said he would meet with officials of the Department of Transportation on July 31, 2020, to discuss the proposal to reopen the airport for commercial operations.

“We are in the process of drafting a proposal which when agreed upon by the DOTr, the local government and DOTr would come up with an agreement that we will manage the facilities and the operation of the airport,” Magalong said on Tuesday.

Built in 1934, Loakan Airport is the only airport in the Cordillera. Prior to the 1990 earthquake, commercial airplanes serviced the city but stopped after the devastation brought about by the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that hit Luzon in 1990.

Magalong said once the city had been granted permission to operate the airport, it would enter into a PPP scheme with a private firm.

“We will look for a third party, a group that will fully oversee the management, will have direct management of the facility… agreement will be between the LGU and the third party,” he said.

Magalong also bared that he would meet with officials of PALExpress, a PAL subsidiary, after he had been initially approached regarding the plan to reopen the airport.

“Fina-fasttrack namin. Hopefully by next year, early next year, mapatakbo na natin ‘yan, ma-open na natin ‘yan (We are fasttracking and hopefully by early next year, we can open it [Loakan airport] and operate it again),” he said.

Once operational, the airport would cater only to domestic flights, a clamor of tourists who travel to Baguio.

Magalong said tourists were discouraged from going to Baguio due to the long hours of travel and the traffic congestion.

In 2017, the city government placed the rehabilitation of the Loakan Airport among its priorities. The same was carried by the Regional Development Council in its 2018 Regional Infrastructure Development Projects for the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

On the first semester of 2018, officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines visited the airport to see if some upgrading could again make the facility viable for regular air travel.

At present, the Loakan Airport is being used by the Philippine Air Force and the presidential chopper, but not by commercial flights due to its small size, pedestrians near the site, and the upland fog that hinders night vision. (Liza Agoot, Rithan Haize Dullona, PNA)

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