Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sulu Airport To Undergo Repair And Expansion

Passengers from Pangutaran Island disembark from a motorized boat as the other wait for their turn in the port of Jolo in Sulu province in the southern Philippines. Small ferries and boats such as this bring passengers and goods to island-villages off Sulu. (Mindanao Examiner Photo)

SULU, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Apr. 27, 2008) – Filipino engineers are to begin a survey in Sulu province for the expansion of the airport and once finished, huge planes such as 737s and cargo aircrafts, will be able to fly and land safely.

Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan said the project, which will begin in a few months, cost about $ 3 million and is funded by the United States. He said the project was made possible because of President Gloria Arroyo who sought the funding for the rehabilitation of the airport.

"We thank President Gloria Arroyo and of course the United States' President George Bush and all the stakeholders in the project that will surely benefit our people. With a bigger airport, more aircrafts now can fly and land safely in Sulu and the project will surely hasten trade and commerce," Tan said.

The 1,800-meter runaway will be expanded to more than 2,000 meters so it could accommodate bigger passenger planes not only from Manila or Zamboanga, but from neighboring countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei that makes up the East Asia Growth Area, a sub-regional economic cooperation initiative in Southeast Asia that included the Philippines. The rehabilitation of the airport expected to be completed next year.

He said Arroyo has pledged more development projects for Sulu and so is Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao , to which Sulu belongs. "The President has promised us more projects for the people and so is Gov. Ampatuan, who has been very supportive and working hard for the development of Sulu and of the whole autonomous region," Tan said.

In October last year, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney handed over to Tan the P27-million Jolo market road and several projects in the province, including computers for the Sulu National High School and aquaculture materials for former Muslim rebels now engaged in lobster fattening.

They were on top of the $3.7 million airport expansion project and the construction of a potable water system in Sulu.

Last year, Tan launched the "Fruits of Hope program" in partnership with the international non-governmental organization called the Asia America Initiative and the Philippine National Red Cross and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The Fruits of Hope program was a model for reconciliation and terror prevention through creating livelihood opportunities in agricultural and fisheries-based communities. Because of the program, Sulu was able to shipped about six tons of assorted fruits bought from farmers and agricultural cooperatives and sold to supermarkets in Manila.

Just early this year, Tan led thousands of Muslims for a two-day peace caravan in Sulu.

He said the caravan was a collaborative effort of national government agencies and various non-government organizations to address the immediate health, education and livelihood needs of communities affected by conflict.

Dubbed as Health, Education, and Livelihood for Progress (H.E.L.P) Humanitarian Caravan, Tan said it was a mechanism designed to address the needs of communities in crisis due to the prevailing conflict in the area.

A second peace caravan, Tan said, would be held next month in Sulu. Tan said the H.E.L.P initiative is also aimed at consulting with the local communities on their medium and long term concerns particularly on livelihood and employment aspect. (With reports from Nickee Butlangan and Sulu Media Desk)

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