Security measures upgraded to secure new airports in Iloilo , Bacolod, says Drilon
Senator Franklin M. Drilon today allayed the fears of residents in Western Visayas by announcing that the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has put in place security arrangements at the new airports being built in the provinces of Iloilo and Bacolod in order to prevent recurrence of similar attacks as the bombing on the new airport in Bacolod last month.
"DOTC Sec. Leandro Mendoza has assured me that measures were put in place to ensure safety and security within the sites and surrounding vicinities of the two ongoing major foreign-assisted airport projects in Region 6," Drilon said.
In a letter dated November 6, 2006, Mendoza informed Drilon that immediately after the bombing incident, Philippine Army and Philippine National Police units consisting of 22 army men and eight policemen were deployed to secure the New Bacolod Airport Development Project 24-hours a day.
This is being reinforced by the contractor's 18 security guards posted and roving during daytime with additional seven security guards during nighttime, Drilon said.
"This kind of arrangement together with the usual internal security measures between the contractor, consultant and the Project Manager Office of the New Bacolod Airport Development Project and other covert activities and undertakings by military and police will stay until the completion of the project," Mendoza said in the letter.
Drilon, who is also Liberal Party President, played a lead role in the facilitation of the P6.2 billion Iloilo airport project in the past eight years. He is part of the steering committee which oversees the project implementation. In November 1998, then President Joseph Estrada issued a memorandum creating the Iloilo Airport Coordinating Committee, with Drilon as adviser.
Drilon, along with President Arroyo and Secretary Mendoza, launched the project in Iloilo in January 2004. The airport is seen to increase air passenger and cargo traffic in the province and its influence areas to boost economic development in Western Visayas.
"Iloilo, whose airport has the fourth highest passenger traffic in the country, will benefit from the influx of tourists and investors once the new airport becomes operational next year," Drilon said.
In his letter, Mendoza also reported to Drilon that a group of about 50 military and police personnel are currently deployed 24 hours a day in the construction site of the New Iloilo Airport Development Project.
"Mendoza also relayed to me that his department is coordinating with the Armed Forces of the Philippines for the necessary assistance to protect the safety of construction sites and personnel involved in other ongoing ODA projects in the country," Drilon, who is also Liberal Party president, said.
During the budget deliberations of the Committee on Finance on the DOTC budget last October 9, Drilon, who is chairman of the committee, inquired from Mendoza what security measures are in place in view of the attack by alleged operatives of the New People's Army (NPA) on the new airport being built in Silay City.
Drilon had asked Mendoza to secure the Iloilo airport in order to prevent any delay in its scheduled opening on March 17, 2006.
Last October 8, NPA rebels bombed P30 million worth of equipment used in building the Bacolod airport project.
The P4.3 billion airport project, located 14 kilometers north of Bacolod, is funded partly by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation and was scheduled for completion in the second quarter of next year.
Like the airport project in Silay City, the Iloilo airport is in its last phase of completion and will begin operation next year. It is sprawled in a 184-hectare site between the towns of Cabatuan and Sta. Barbara, located 19 kilometers north of Iloilo City.
"The civil works and the electrical works are about to be finished on December 31, 2006. Test flights are supposed to be made on the first quarter of next year, the turnover will be made on March 17, 2007," Drilon said after an ocular inspection of the new airport in Iloilo.