STATE-OF-THE-ART! Tourism-friendly. Symbolizing sugarcane and its children. Dream comes true. The only airport in the Philippines with a view deck. The icon of prosperity in the province. The landmark of the future. The pride of the Negrenses.

Yes, folks. I am referring to the Bacolod (Silay) Airport at Hda. Panaogao, Brgy. IVin Silay City. Last Jan. 19, it celebrated its second anniversary. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines adopted the theme, "CAAP Bacolod (Silay) Going Strong".

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Our airport has undergone a metamorphic process. It was founded on the dream of Mayor Ramon "Titot" Jison (1988- 1992) of having at least a modern airport in Silay. The dream came true in the time of Mayor Edwin "Bigot" Velez (1992- 2001) in tandem with former Gov. Rafael "Lito" Coscolluela. The construction happened in the time of Mayor Carlo Gamban (2001- 2007) and the grand inauguration took place in the administration of Mayor Jose "Oti" Montelibano (2007- present).

History is very significant to our lives because knowing the past allows us to understand the present, and prepares us to face the future. During the second anniversary program at the ground of the Control Tower Building, Gregorio Vallejera, consultant and the oldest CAAP employee (74 years old), amused us with airport history. In 1965, economic boom was happening in Negros Occidental which paved the way for the operations of four airline companies at Bacolod Airport. The old airport was operating on 1,500-meter x 30-meter runway (only 37 hectares, of which 20 percent does not belong to the government.)

ATO officials were even joking that only the best pilots are sent to Bacolod. Every landing is emergency landing. The runway was cute and horrible crosswind from Canlaon was caressing the planes. There was no room for expansion. There was Guimaras Strait in the west, subdivisions and highway in the east, river in the north, and no space in the south. Multiple problems were felt because airline companies started to land bigger planes in Bacolod. Only two airplanes were allowed to park at the same time.

At that time, there was a frantic search going on in three places for the new airport venue-Abuanan (with problem on irrigation dikes), Hda. Felisa (hilly terrain) and another area in Bago City where the distillery is now located (with legal problem on land). Real problem!

Finally, in 1997, Jica (Japan International Cooperation Agency) was commissioned for planning the expansion of airports. Bacolod, Iloilo, Legazpi, and Tacloban were identified. In Negros Occidental, one ideal site was identified, around 15 kilometers Northeast of Bacolod (more or less 181 hectares). (It used to be the airstrip of the Japanese Imperial Army during the Second World War.)

And that was the beginning of it all! All roads led to Silay! No doubt about it. And I know personally the reasons why. I was there when history was brewing. Silay City Government was cooperative to Jica (maps, transportation, meals for Japanese consultants, escorts, interviews, meetings). Other LGU officials were not yet certain on what Silay was doing. They were even saying, "Silay is simply dreaming. Silay hacenderos in the area will not sell their haciendas." But, the unexpected happened!

In 1999, another Jica study was commissioned and detailed plans were made and completed in March 2000. Bidding happened on Aug. 25, 2003 and won by Takenaka- Itucho, Japan International. Construction commenced on Aug. 2004 and after 900 working days the airport was completed (July 16, 2007). The opening was delayed because there was debate over extension and access road.

The airport officially opened and operations started on Jan. 18, 2008. Vice President Noli de Castro was the Honored Guest. Mayor Oti Montelibano was in the helm of reception to give his historic welcome remarks. The first commercial flight, Airbus 319-100 of Cebu Pacific, FLT 55473 from Manila landed at 5:22 am. Of course, the city officials and my tourism staff members were all there to give Silay Medallion of Welcome to all the first passengers.

The first international flight was a chartered plane from Kazakhstan. It landed on January 2, 2009. That was history! The airport is still strong after two years. We all hope that our airport next improvements will be faster.

Mayor Jose Montelibano and the Association of Tourism Officers of Negros Occidental (Atono) presented the certificates of appreciation to Airport Manager Felizardo Torralba and to Police Senior Inspector Efren Laquihon Sr. (Chief of Airport PNP) for their outstanding cooperation in visitor's accommodation and tourism promotion which redounds to the betterment of tourism industry in Negros Occidental.

We salute to all those who are involved in our airport operations! We expect more from you. Please, do not rest on your laurels. Be globally smart and see the sun shinning!