DESPITE the opposition aired by several business groups in Cagayan de Oro and Misamis Oriental, President Benigno Aquino III vowed to open the Laguindingan International Airport on April 30, 2013.

Aquino said the airport is now ready for operation and is expected to cater to at least 1.6 billion tourists who would help boost the economy of Misamis Oriental.

“In two months’ time, you will have a new airport,” he said during his visit at Xavier Ecoville in Barangay Lumbia on Tuesday.

Before visiting Xavier Ecoville, Aquino personally flew by chopper to Laguindingan to spearhead the soft opening of the airport.

The US$167.09 million (P7.853 billion) Laguindingan International Airport sits on a 4.17 square kilometers site in Barangay Moog, located 46 kilometers away from the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro.

With the opening of the Laguindingan airport, Aquino said the Lumbia Airport will be turned over to the Philippine Air Force.

Earlier, several business organizations and civil society groups came up with a resolution requesting for the deferment of the airport’s opening in April 30 “pending commissioning of its air navigation and support services facilities.”

The groups noted that the Laguindingan Airport does not have the needed air navigation and support facilities (ANSSF), including road and transport infrastructures, to effectively motor passengers from Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon, Iligan, Misamis Oriental and other provinces.

It was learned that the airport will make use of the Visual Flight Rules (FVR).

The groups said the premature opening of the airport has alarmed the business community and the civil society in the region.

“The undersigned organizations and associations believed that operating the Laguindingan Airport without the appropriate navigational facilities will not only jeopardize passenger safety but will also greatly limit the operational capability of the Laguindingan Airport. The limited operating hours resulting from VFR operations will reduce the number of flights to and from Cagayan de Oro and will have a negative impact on the economy and business activities in Cagayan de Oro City and the surrounding areas, not to mention the impact on tourism in the area and economic losses of about 70 percent,” the groups said in their resolution.

They said the deferment of the planned opening of the airport is in consideration of public safety and in the interest of the business community and the tourism sector in the region.

The groups are also requesting for a dialogue with Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

Among those who signed the resolution are the officers of Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Iligan Chamber of Commerce, Misamis Oriental Fil-Chinese Chamber, CDO Fil-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, Promote CDO Foundation Inc., Oro Bankers Association, and Metalworking Association of the Phils., among others.

Copies of the resolution were submitted to Aquino, Abaya, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, Mindanao Development Authority and the Regional Development Council. (Terry Betonio/Nicole Managbanag)