BONGAO, TAWI-TAWI, MANILA, September 14, 2009
(STAR)  By Edith R. Regalado — Tawi-Tawi is now bracing for the expected influx of investors as well as tourists with the completion of Sanga-Sanga airport runway extension project seen to spur growth in this southernmost province of the country.

“The new airport would really open Tawi-Tawi to the world, to more opportunities and would bring more development to our place,” Tawi-Tawi Gov. Sadikul Sahali said.

Sahali said the improved airport runway would mean the influx of investors and tourists to Tawi-Tawi, considered to have the richest marine life resources in the world.

“Tawi-Tawi would really now be the country’s gateway to Southeast Asia,” Sahali added.

United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney led the recent turn-over rites of the major Sanga-Sanga airport improvement project that involved extending the existing runway from 1,611 meters to 1,930 meters, and widened to 30 meters.

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-Growth with Equity in Mindanao (GEM) put up P100 million of the P192.2-million airport runway extension project while government came up with the remaining P92.2 million as its counterpart fund.

With the extended runway, the Sanga-Sanga airport can accommodate, starting next month bigger planes such as A320 and B737 aircraft.

Sahali said both Philippine Airlines Express and Cebu Pacific have already signified intention to ply the Tawi-Tawi route upon completion of the airport runway improvement project. At present, Tawi-Tawi is served by a daily flight from Zamboanga City on a SEAIR 19-seater aircraft.

Officials of the Tawi-Tawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry said the Sanga-Sanga airport runway improvement is expected to improve air linkages not only with the rest of the country but also with the neighboring areas of East Malaysia, East Indonesia and Brunei Darussalam.

“These improvements will ensure safer airport operations and higher-capacity air linkages as well as open up more trade, tourism and investment opportunities in the region,” said Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana Sr., chairman of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo), which oversees the implementation of the GEM Program.

“There is great potential in eco-tourism here, especially if air links to neighboring countries are established,” said Abdelnooh Hajirul, president of the Tawi-Tawi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Aside from the airport runway extension project, the USAID-GEM project also funded a bridge-road project that directly links for the first time Sanga-Sanga Island —where the airport is located to mainland in Tawi-Tawi island where the capital town of Bongao is located.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved