Loakan air­port eyed as heli­port

Sun.Star Baguio - - Top Stories -

THE LOAKAN air­port can best be uti­lized as a heli­port just like how it was used dur­ing the 1990 earth­quake, for­mer tourism and in­te­rior sec­re­tary Rafael Alu­nan said here Fri­day.

Alu­nan told the me­dia how they at the tourism depart­ment used the Loakan air­port us­ing C-130 planes of the Philippine Air Force and the United States Air Force, as well as small chop­pers to trans­port peo­ple and goods af­ter the 1990 killer quake struck Baguio, iso­lat­ing the city from the rest of the coun­try.

Alu­nan served the tourism depart­ment dur­ing the time of for­mer pres­i­dent Co­ra­zon Aquino and later as in­te­rior sec­re­tary dur­ing the term of for­mer pres­i­dent Fidel Ramos.

“I re­mem­ber Loakan dur­ing the earth­quake. That was my for­ward op­er­at­ing base. My team from the DOT would be pro­cess­ing tourists we would find scat­tered all over Baguio, process them there and bring them out of Baguio via he­li­copter,” he said.

Dur­ing the earth­quake, he said, they used the air­port for a month but it con­tin­ued to serve as a heli­port for sev­eral months un­til the roads opened. He also said that they used the Loakan air­port in trans­port­ing goods.

The Cordillera Re­gional De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil is back­ing Baguio’s City Gov­ern­ment in its bid to have the Loakan air­port re­ha­bil­i­tated and de­vel­oped, not just to trans­port pas­sen­gers but also ex­port goods pro­duced by lo­ca­tors at the Baguio city ex­port pro­cess­ing zone.

The ex­port pro­cess­ing zone in Baguio houses a United States mi­cro-chip pro­duc­ing com­pany and an aero­space spare parts com­pany aside from other goods and ap­par­els.

Alu­nan pro­posed con­vert­ing Loakan into a heli­port to ad­dress such is­sues as short run­way and other safety con­cerns. “It all de­pends on tech­nol­ogy now and econ­omy of scale but I would like to see Loakan air­port con­verted into a

heli­port,” he said.

“The main air­port will be in La Union and he­li­copters in La Union to bring pas­sen­gers to Baguio and the same he­li­copters to ser­vice the re­gion -- the only way to get from one place to an­other in a shorter (time),” he said.

While de­vel­op­ing the air­port and mod­ern­iz­ing it would be more en­tic­ing to air­lines and tourists, as is, its tar­mac area is large enough to serve as a heli­port, he said.

Alu­nan re­mem­bered how the air­port ser­viced the coun­try and how its re­vival is nec­es­sary not just for busi­ness but for ac­ces­si­bil­ity even dur­ing calami­ties. Com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions of the air­port were given up by air­line com­pa­nies in the 2000s due to costly air fare, safety rea­sons and lack of de­mand.

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