John Unson – Philstar.com
October 2, 2023 | 6:14pm
The country’s airline giants have restored all flights linking Cotabato Airport to other destinations, including the premier Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila.
Philstar.com / John Unson
COTABATO CITY — Traders and health workers were elated over the reopening of the Cotabato Airport on Sunday after it was shut for three months for runway reconstruction.
The temporary closure affected commerce and trade in Cotabato and stifled the airlift of essential medical supplies from Metro Manila.
Paisalin Tago, transportation and communications minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, led Sunday’s symbolic reopening of the facility, just as passengers alighted from the first commercial plane to land on its runway since its closure in June this year.
The Cotabato Airport is located in Barangay Awang in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao del Norte, only seven kilometers from the center of this city, where the regional capitol of BARMM is located.
The physician John Maliga, spokesperson and a senior staff member of the Cotabato Regional Medical Center, said on Monday that they are thankful to the BARMM government for having prodded the contractor of the airport repair works to finish the project two months ahead of its supposed completion as programmed.
“That means resumption of the direct shipment of medicines and other medical supplies from Metro Manila that we, doctors in Cotabato City and in nearby provinces, need for our patients,” Maliga said.
Thousands of Muslims from across central Mindanao who performed the hajj in Makkah in Saudi Arabia last July returned home via the airports in the faraway cities of Davao in the north and General Santos in the south, shuttled from there to Cotabato City by buses paid for by the office of Tago, who is a member of the 80-seat BARMM parliament besides his being at the helm of the MOTC.
Mohammad Omar Pasigan, chairman of the Bangsamoro Regional Board of Investments, said many investors from Metro Manila and from abroad had canceled their exploratory tours to Cotabato City and nearby provinces due to the suspension of the Cotabato Airport’s operation for three months.
“We can urge them now to proceed with their plans of coming over to get a feel of the improving investment climate now in Cotabato City and in nearby Bangsamoro municipalities,” Pasigan said.
Tago said he appreciates the role of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, an agency not devolved to the BARMM government, for helping ensure the quick completion of the airport runway repair by a private contractor.
Tago said that their current focus is on the expansion of the cooperation of the personnel of CAAP, the local members of the civil aviation security force of the Philippine National Police and the Army’s 6th Infantry Division in securing the newly reopened Cotabato Airport.
The Cotabato Airport is less than a hundred meters away from the 6th ID’s operation center inside Camp Siongco, the largest military installation in central Mindanao.