Airport to rise in Limasawa

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

MATALOM, LEYTE -- Limasawa Island in Southern Leyte, the site of the first mass in the country, will have its own airport to be financed by a Japanese investor, the town's local chief executive revealed.

Mayor Melchor Petracorta said foreign investors have been acquiring lots within the 16-hectare proposed site for the small airport in Barangay San Agustin, which will serve light planes transporting tourists mostly from Cebu.

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"They were invited by the Provincial Government. Japanese experts have been visiting our place to conduct surveys," Petracorta said. Project cost was not yet disclosed since investors are still making detailed plans.

Cebu-based private plane operators have expressed their interest to utilize the proposed airport with the demand from foreign tourist for a convenient travel to the Island from Mactan International Airport in Cebu, according to Petracorta.

Currently, there is only one way to get to Limasawa - take the motorized boat from the Padre Burgos wharf, the island is one hour boat ride on smooth waters. The trip takes longer when the water is rough or totally cancelled when there is an impending storm.

The pier is just 30-minute drive from Maasin City, Southern Leyte's capital. It is accessible from Cebu City by boat or Tacloban City through regular bus trips.

"Once the project is completed, this will draw more tourist-friendly investments such as hotels and resorts," he added.

Petracorta is optimistic that the construction will be fully implemented in 2011 as investors bared their plan to ship heavy equipments within this year.

Limasawa Tourism Office Chief Remigilda Salomon said from February to June this year alone, at least 300 foreign divers came to Limasawa.

Salomon explained that the project will be located in the cleared area where an airstrip was built few decades back. It has been used by foreign pilot missionaries in conducting medical missions during 1980s.

In 2007, the Provincial Government proposed for rehabilitation of airstrip in the historic Island but it was not funded by the National Government. The plan was an outcome of a visiting tour of the province early on some 30 student pilots, some of them foreigners.

"Aside from foreign investors conducting survey, we were also visited by Japanese investors who were interested to develop resorts in the Island," Salomon said.

The tadpole-shaped Island, which is approximately six kilometers long is not only known as a historical site but also a place ideal for diving and vacation with its powdery white sand beaches.

Peter's Dive Resort operating in the Island claimed that the site as "beautiful and amazing" coral reefs and "variety of exotic marine life." The most visited being Zachs cove and Adrians cove, now part of the largest sanctuary in Southern Leyte.

Salomon said that improvement projects have been implemented in their town this year. This includes a P500,000 repairs of the national shrine and trail to the replica of the cross. A P5 million road concreting from the junction to the shrine was recently completed. It was funded by the Department of Tourism.

According to history, Limasawa Island was first toured by foreigners with the arrival of Chinese and perhaps Arabic tradesmen in 1225. History reveals that on March 1521, it was visited by Magellan and his fleet of three ships, passing through en route to the Spice Islands, to celebrate the first mass in the Philippines.(Leyte Samar Daily Express)

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