Security tight in run-up to Laguindingan airport opening

LAGUINDINGAN, Misamis Oriental - Combined police and Army security forces beefed up the local security force in Laguindingan in preparation for the grand opening of the Laguindingan International Airport on Saturday, June 15.

Government security forces were deployed around the brand new airport following the final inspection of President Benigno S. Aquino lll, on Tuesday of the airport before it the start of official operations on Saturday.

Several mobile checkpoints were also put up along the national highway towards the new airport.

Incoming Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno accompanied the Chief Executive during the flag raising ceremony here on Tuesday, along with other members of the Cabinet during the final inspection of the airport.

Meanwhile, the business community, academe and other civil society groups in Northern Mindanao stood firm on their opposition to the opening of the Laguindingan International Airport due to alleged lack of navigational equipment.

They said the main issues on safety and flight reductions are among the main concern, that's why they wanted to temporarily defer the opening of the new airport.

They alleged that if the opening of the new airport will push through on Saturday, it will be operating without air navigation and support services facilities (ANSSF).

"Relying only on the visual flight rules (VFR) is very dangerous. Why are they in a hurry to open this airport?," asked a member of the Cagayan de Oro Chamber who requested anonymity.

"We in the business community can wait. Our objective here for the temporary postponement for the opening of the airport is for the safety of passengers," another business operator in the region also commented.

However, despite the absence of ANSSF, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor-elect Moreno said the safety will not be compromised.

"There is nothing to worry since there are no flights at night to Laguindingan yet," Moreno was quoted as saying during a local radio station interview in Cagayan de Oro.

He added the airport must be operational already since it will be more difficult to use it when it gains "non-use" status.

The airport, worth U.S. $ 167.09 million (Php 7.853 billion), sits on a 4.17-square kilometer property in Barangay Moog, Laguindingan, located 46 kilometers away from Lumbia National Airport in Cagayan de Oro City.

The Legislative body of Cagayan de Oro in its resolution on Monday also reiterated its support to the business community for the postponement of the opening of the Laguindingan International Airport, due to lack of some navigational equipment.

The resolution was already passed early this year to support the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation Inc. (Oro Chamber) which has been opposing the airport's opening on Saturday.

However, the national government has expressed optimism that the scheduled start of Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental operations on Saturday will proceed without a hitch.

On Monday, local officials already blessed the airport facilities and its runway here after an "ecumenical mass" at the airport's main terminal building.

Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said the Laguindingan airport would formally transfer the northern Mindanao's gateway from the Lumbia National Airport to the Laguindingan International Airport.

It was gathered that the Laguindingan Airport's operations and maintenance (O and M) contract will be privatized next year through the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.

Flights will depart the Laguindingan airport from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., except when there is severe weather disturbances, officials from the Civil Aeronautics Authority of the Philippines said.