In the name of freedom

12tulunan2Italian missionary Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME reads the names of the martyrs in Tulunan, North Cotabato who were killed during the Martial Law years on the Day of Martyrs on Thursday, April 11. MindaNews photo by Ruby Thursday More

Mindanao electricity market to commercially operate in September

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/12 April)– The Interim Mindanao Electricity Market (IMEM), which was pushed by the Department of Energy (DOE) to address power shortage in Mindanao by drawing out all generation capacities to the system grid, will kick-off on September 26, ahead of its original schedule next year.

Melinda Ocampo, president of the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC), said in a public consultation on the rules of IMEM here that Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla instructed her to fast-track IMEM’s commercial operation.

She said the original schedule was set in 2014, adding “pero pinagalitan na po ako (but I was scolded), so it will be fast-tracked.”

Petilla also pushed earlier the Interruptible Load Program (ILP), which is another alternative to bridge the power supply deficiency in Mindanao that began in 2010.

In an interview, Romeo Montenegro, director for investment promotion and public affairs of the Mindanao Development Authority, said with the ILP scheme, malls and other establishments will run their embedded generators on peak hours to lessen the demand, which could save the grid of an estimated 100 to 150 megawatts (MW).

Ocampo explained after the consultation that the power supply under the ILP is available only within franchised areas, unlike in the IMEM where the supply will be available within the system grid.

“This will help solve the power crisis in Mindanao,” she said, noting that under IMEM, all generation capacities in the island will be synchronized into the system with the excess power in other regions supplying the deficiency in other areas.

The IMEM, which will be operated by PEMC, will be a venue “for transparency, efficiency and reliability of all available power supply” in Mindanao, Ocampo said.

Ocampo said that they expect “a hundred percent cooperation” from all stakeholders, that was why public consultations had been conducted.

The public consultation here was the third and last. The first two were held in Zamboanga City last April 4 and Cagayan de Oro City last April 10.

The IMEM will have a day-ahead market and will compensate embedded generators and voluntary load customers through a price determination methodology and cost recovery methodology approved by the Energy Regulatory Commission, the IMEM primer said.

The start of registration of IMEM members will be on June 3, while the start of trial operations will be on August 26, based on the IMEM timeline.

Ocampo said the IMEM will serve as a transition to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM) in Mindanao, and “will help improve the power situation in the island until new power generation capacities will be added to the grid by 2015.”

The PEMC, which was directed by the DOE to develop and implement the IMEM, operates the WESM in Luzon and Visayas. (Lorie Ann Cascaro/MindaNews) 

MIND DA NEWS: Off-Course Presscon

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 11 April) – In a 43-minute press conference at the Crowne Hotel in Pasig City last April 3, the Bangsamoro Transition Commission, following its en banc “ceremonial opening of their first official meeting”, met the Manila media to brief them about the TransCom but got waylaid instead with questions on the Sabah issue (MindaNews, April 4, 2013; Luwaran, April 6).

Writes MindaNews editor Carolyn O. Arguillas: “The moderator of the press conference had to butt in to remind reporters that the press conference was not about Sabah but about the Transition Commission (TransCom). … But reporters …pressed on, with more than half of the 43-minute press briefing spent on questions about the Sabah crisis and Malaysia …”.

Sabah was the Manila media’s primary interest: “In fact, the press conference, aired liver over ANC (ABS-CBN News Channel) started and ended with questions on Sabah, even as MILF peace panel chair and concurrent TransCom chair Mohagher Iqbal had repeatedly said it is ‘not part of the agenda’ of the GPH-MILF peace process but a ‘bilateral issue between the Philippine government and Malaysia’.” (bold ours)

Recalling my active years in news reporting from mid-1950s with The Mindanao Cross until I closed my short-lived Mindanao Kris in February 1996, I would remember many frustrating off-course press conferences or interviews. Out of the blue, reporters would shoot questions as diverse and unrelated as the ETs swooping down in their UFOs. Usually only the curiosities of reporters, not the issues that mattered, were satisfied. Exclusive interviews had always been my preference.

Back then, local reporters could be excused for their rambling questions. Most had no formal training; in fact many could hardly write reckoned from journalistic and English standards. However, even then reporters from national media covering some important events, disregarding common interest on the events, would interrupt and divert the coherent flow of the interview with self-satisfying questions

The April 3 press conference vividly showed the incorrigible state of the Manila media. That was not an ambush interview where they could shoot any question but one on a specific subject: What the Transition Commission is all about that the nation must know. In being present at the dual event, media was performing their primary duty to inform. Did the reporters properly prepare themselves for the occasion?

From what transpired during the press conference, it was evident that the reporters of Manila media – and by implication the Manila media – were not interested in the Transition Commission, much less in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement on Bangsamoro signed last October 15 except for whatever sensational news that might arise from either the success or failure to end the Moro Problem. They perceived that by infusing Sabah into the peace process they can scoop sensational news.

But they only manifested their arrogance and impertinence, if not boorishness. That they ignored the moderator’s reminder that the press conference was about the Transition Commission, not Sabah and the repeated clarification by TransCom and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal and other TransCom members that Sabah is not part of the agenda of the Commission and of the peace process was arrogance. Insisting in effect that they were right was impertinence.

At one point, despite patient explanations that “… Sabah … is not an issue in the peace negotiation…” so the question whether “Sabah and how to settle it” will be mentioned in the Basic Law “is very difficult … to answer”, a reporter insisted in his question: “But will it be in the Basic Law?”

TransCom and MILF panel member Maulana Alonto and another TransCom member Johaira Wahab invoked the popular saying, “We will cross the bridge when we reach there.” The reporter shot back, “The bridge is already there.”

That was a boorish way of arguing with the TransCom chair and members and a “No, no” in the cardinal rules of interview. For reporters to ask questions not to clarify facts but to confirm their stand on an issue is part of the “No, no”.

Media reports confirmed the attitude and principal interest of reporters in attending the TransCom opening rites and press conference. The headlines and leads were on media concern of how the TransCom would address the Sabah issue. Some narrations about TransCom and its task were tucked in merely replicating Iqbal’s opening remarks.

Iqbal in outlining the MILF’s view of the Transition Commission stated its imperatives and the five-point vision of the Bangsamoro government. These were supposed to be the focus of the questions at the press conference for the TransCom chair and members to elucidate. Of that the moderator reminded the Sabah-anxious reporters at the outset.

The April 4 Philippine Daily Inquirer report (Bangsamoro transition body tiptoed around Sabah issue) showed the Manila media’s frame of mind:

“[T]he barrage of questions thrown by the media at the 15 members of the commission led by MILF chief negotiator Mohagher Iqbal, [were] mainly about what the Bangsamoro Transition Committee, in crafting the Basic Law, could do to help resolve the long-standing Sabah issue.

It appeared that none of the commission’s answers, including Iqbal, could satisfy the reporters’ questions about the Sabah being claimed by the Sulu Sultanate, a major stakeholder in the Bangsamoro community.”

Most interesting to note: Per PDI report, the Manila media want the TransCom to provide in the Bangsamoro Basic Law a solution to the Sabah question since the Sulu Sultanate is a major stakeholder in the Bangsamoro community. How sane is that thinking?

The TransCom must have looked up to the Manila media for information assistance during this critical phase in the implementation of the FAB. That must have been one of the reasons – perhaps the primary reason – for holding in Metro Manila its opening ceremony and the press conference immediately after.

However, to be waylaid with questions on Sabah and in media reports to be cited or quoted way out of context to compromise or derail the mandate of TransCom must have been most frustrating on the part of the TransCom chair and members, Government, Moro Islamic Liberation Front and all others deeply involved in the peace process. (Patricio P. Diaz / MindaNews)

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(UPDATED) Annexes unfinished; GPH, MILF resume talks after May 13 polls

KUALA LUMPUR (MindaNews/11 April) –  The peace panels of the Philippine government (GPH)  and Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) ended their three-day negotiations today (Thursday) with the three annexes to the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro still unfinished.

Thursday’s session began at 9:54 a.m. and ended with the signing at the State Room of the Palace of the Golden Horses Hotel at  1:05 p.m. of  a Joint Statement that they will “meet again after the May 13 Philippine elections” to finish the annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization.

The annexes are needed to complete the comprehensive peace pact which will then be the basis for crafting the Basic Law for the “Bangsamoro,” the new autonomous political entity that would replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao by 2016.

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal shake hands after signing at 1:05 p.m. Thursday a Joint Statement at the end of the three day talks in Kuala Lumpur.  MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Government peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer and Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal shake hands after signing at 1:05 p.m. Thursday a Joint Statement at the end of the three day talks in Kuala Lumpur. MindaNews photo by Carolyn O. Arguillas

Discussions of the Technical Working Group (TWG) on Normalization which met since Monday, a day ahead of the scheduled April 9 to 11 talks,  are “moving the parties towards an agreement on the architecture for the normalization process,” it said.

The eight-paragraph statement said the panels “continued to find ways to resolve remaining issues on the annexes on wealth-sharing, power-sharing and normalization,  agreeing to exchange notes through the facilitator in the coming days” and affirmed their commitment to “finally settle these issues soon so that all three annexes may be signed without undue delay.”

GPH peace panel chair Miriam Coronel-Ferrer said they hope to address a number of issues during the exchange of notes between now and the next round of talks

MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal described this week’s talks as “very tough.”

“Government is not ready to sign Wealth-Sharing. MILF is very ready,” he told MindaNews.

The Philippines is holding its synchronized national mid-term, local and regional elections on May 13. Malaysia’s election is on May 5.

Different phase

Ferrer told MindaNews that the panels are “already in a different phase of finishing only the remaining issues and the routine does not have to be the same. The approach can be different.”

She said there are only two remaining key issues in the Annex on Power-sharing: “the allocation of the powers across the different items pertaining to transportation and communications and the concept of regional waters.”

In the Annex on Wealth-Sharing, “it’s really getting the whole picture, it’s the fine-tuning and getting the sum total of all the obligations that will be committed by government.”

Ferrer acknowledged that the Wealth-Sharing Annex had been “initialed at the TWG level but as agreed, it will be subject to the review of our principals.”

She said due diligence is being conducted “now that we have the sum total of taxes, block grants, subsidies, revenue shares…and government wants to be very clear about the kinds of commitments  it will be making.”

The Wealth-Sharing Annex was initialed during the February 25 to 27 talks and is, until now, still undergoing review by government.

Ferrer explained that the review process takes long. “Unlike in the case of the MILF when they are focused on this thing, government is focused on many things, it has many agendas so that means in a matter that requires extensive discussion, understanding of the full implications and consensus of all branches of government that will be affected here, then that‘s a process that takes some time in the midst of all the regular governance functions, in the midst of all issues that government is facing.”

The panels also signed the Terms of Reference of the Sajahatra Bangsamoro,  a socio-economic peace initiative of government in partnership with the MILF and personally launched by President Benigno Simeon Aquino III on February 11 at the Bangsamoro Leadership and Management Institute compound in Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao.

President Aquino then said peace was “abot-kamay” (within reach).

“Abot-kamay  na po ang bunga ng kapayapaang kay tagal nating inaasam-asam” (The fruits of peace that we have long cherished are now within reach), Aquino said exactly two months ago.

Heartbreak Hill

The President, whose family lived in exile in Boston for a couple of years during the Marcos dictatorship, likened the stage of the peace process as of February 11 to the “Heartbreak Hill” of the Boston Marathon.

He said on the last mile of the marathon, when the runner already sees the finish line, the terrain goes uphill. But there is no stopping, he said.

“While nearing the peak of ‘Heartbreak Hill’ there will be more intrigues, more difficult process. But our trust for each other will get us through,” the President said.

The next day, February 12,  members of the “Royal Security Forces of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo” arrived in Lahad Datu in Sabah to assert their proprietary rights over Sabah. Whether or not it was mere coincidence, or the product of an alleged conspiracy, the arrival in Sabah led to a standoff that broke into violence on March 1and led Malaysia into launching Operasi Daulat (Operation Uphold Sovereignty) through aerial and ground attacks to flush out the “Royal Security Forces” from Lahad Datu.

At least 70 Filipinos have been reported killed and hundreds arrested in Sabah and at least 5,000 have evacuated to Sulu, Tawi-tawi and Basilan. Complaints of alleged human rights violations were also reported by evacuees.

Although the GPH and the MILF have repeatedly said Sabah is a foreign affairs issue and is not within the purview of the GPH-MILF peace talks, criticisms had been raised about Malaysia’s role as third party facilitator in the peace talks, given that it is a party to Sabah.

Malaysia has been facilitating and hosting the talks since March 2001.

Former GPH peace panel chair Jesus Dureza (2001 to 2003),  wrote in his column on March 11 that aside from the deaths and the violence suffered by Filipinos in Sabah, “one of major casualties of the Sabah incident is the MILF peace negotiations. “

“Evidently, events have overtaken the MILF peace talks.  Even MILF’s claim for a Bangsamoro ancestral domain and right to self determination, without factoring in the Sabah claim, will not fly anymore. Malaysian participation   as a neutral  ‘facilitator’ is now blown to pieces due to their violent operations against the Filipino Muslims in Lahad Datu. With the arrival of hundreds of Filipinos fleeing Sabah, more alleged atrocities committed against Filipinos are starting to surface,” he wrote.

Different feeling

Dr. Steven Rood, The Asia Foundation’s Country Representative to the Philippines and its representative to the International Contact Group,  the body created by the GPH and MILF peace panels on July 29, 2009, composed of representatives of state and non-state organizations “to accompany and mobilize international support for the peace process,” noticed a “different” feeling in the talks since February, when the Sabah issue came to the fore.

“While many aspects of the talks seem to never change (same participants, same venue, often the same issues) the feeling has been different since early February, when the tragic imbroglio in Sabah erupted, with armed followers of Sultan Jamalul Kiram III of Sulu entering Sabah, followed by a Malaysian security operation in which dozens were killed and hundreds arrested,” he wrote in his blog in “In Asia: weekly insights and features from The Asia Foundation.”

Rood said there is an “obvious question of the effect of all this on the facilitation by Malaysia” of the GPH-MILF peace talks. “Some have called into question the whole notion of Malaysia acting as a neutral facilitator given the Philippines’ claim (though long-dormant) over Sabah (as successor-in-interest to the Sultan of Sulu), and particularly in the context of deaths of Filipino citizens.” But Rood added that “others say that there is no reason to re-think what has been mostly an effective process at reaching an agreement.”

Patience, impatience

Another ICG member, Kristian Herbolzheimer, Director of the Philipines an Colombia Progammes at Conciliation Resources,  described the peace process as “on a good track.”

“At the final stretch of a long negotiation process, expectations are high, which can lead to impatience,” he said.

Herbolzheimer said Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams “keeps reminding that peace discussions inside the Irish Republican Army were more difficult than with the British Government. The Oslo peace accord of 1993 between Israel and Palestine eventually failed due to lack of buy-in from all stakeholders from both constituencies. Parties have not been able to rebuild that momentum 20 years later.”

Another ICG member Emma Leslie, Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies in Cambodia told MindaNews that peace processes “require us to practice the Islamic virtue of patience or endurance.  It is no different in this process. We would always want things to move faster, but we trust that taking time ensures a just peace in the long term.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)

Groups, kin to file charges vs Army on child’s death in ComVal

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 April) – Relatives, human rights and children’s rights groups here will file criminal charges against the military on the death of a child in Mabini town in Compostela Valley (ComVal).

Roque Antivo, 8, was killed last April 3 in an alleged strafing incident in ComVal, while two other children – Jeffrey Hernan, 13, and Earl John Antivo, 12 – sustained gunshot wounds and hit by shrapnel, respectively.

Participants of the funeral march for Antivo at the poblacion Wednesday demanded justice for the boy’s death.

Hanimay Suazo, of Karapatan Southern Mindanao, said they transferred Hernan from the Davao Regional Hospital (DRH) in Tagum City to another hospital, which she refused to name, last Saturday. “He was not safe there because while in the DRH, the boy was being guarded by military personnel 24 hours a day,” she said.

Hernan, his mother Julita, two sisters and Karapatan members were already inside the van when a policeman asked about the boy’s profile before they could leave the DRH, Suazo said.

The groups blamed elements of the 71st Infantry Battalion for “indiscriminately firing” at the children.

In an earlier phone interview, Col. Angelito de Leon, commander of the Army’s 1001st Brigade, denied the allegation, saying the victims were caught in the crossfire during an encounter with the New People’s Army (NPA).

On the other hand, Ka Simon Santiago, director general of the NPA Southern Mindanao’s political department, denied there was an encounter in Sitio Kidaraan, Barangay Maskareg in Mabini.

In a press statement, the NPA said the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) “twisted the facts to save face” by saying that the children were victims of crossfire.

Fidel Rius Valle, advocacy officer of the Children’s Rehabilitation Center Southern Mindanao Region Office (CRC-SMRO), said the group, along with the Kabiba Alliance for Children’s Concerns in Mindanao, is supporting the family and relatives to achieve justice for Roque.

“We will not allow the government to protect criminals to cover up the widespread human rights violations under the Aquino government in its anti-insurgency campaign, Oplan Bayanihan,” Valle said.

Antivo is the fifth child victim of human rights violations in Southern Mindanao, and the 16th in the country under the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, the CRC-SMRO noted.

Valle cited the killing of seven-year-old Sunshine Jabinez allegedly perpetrated by a soldier belonging to the 71IB in Pantukan on September 2011, and the two sons of Juvy Capion, who were allegedly killed by elements of the 27IB in Tampakan, South Cotabato last October.

He said children’s rights groups have been alarmed by the situation because no perpetrator from the government has been prosecuted and punished.

Meanwhile, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 11 is now at the initial stage of investigation on the alleged strafing incident in ComVal.

Emiliano Cajes, Jr., CHR-11 officer in charge of the investigation division, told MindaNews Wednesday his office initiated a probe immediately upon knowing about the incident, especially that the victims are children.

De Leon said in an earlier press statement he “pledged full cooperation to the investigation of the Philippine National Police (PNP) Mabini.”

The AFP’s 10th Infantry Division is also conducting its own probe, the statement said. (Lorie Ann A. Cascaro / MindaNews)

Chiz finds DOE’s proposal to hike power rates in Mindanao ‘unacceptable’

SURIGAO CITY (MindaNews / 11 April) – Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero finds “unacceptable” the proposal of the Department of Energy that Mindanaoans should settle for higher power rates than suffer prolonged, if not regular, daily brownouts.

He said he does not agree to the DOE’s proposition that Mindanao only has two choices – cheap electricity but with the frequent brownouts, or reliable supply of electricity but expensive.

Escudero, together with fellow senatorial candidate Grace Poe-Llamanzares, was in the city Wednesday on a blitzkrieg campaign where he only visited two radio stations and engaged media in a 22-minute press conference before proceeding to Butuan City.

The solon said Mindanao and its people have more valid choices to demand for a “cheap” and “available” power source because it uses an “energy mix” that is environmentally sound and cheaper compared to the more costly and environmentally hazardous coal power plants.

“Mindanao still has the cheapest power rate in the country and has a comparative advantage because of the energy mix used to generate power,” the senator said.

He further urged Mindanaoans to fight for this advantage. He said the right approach is not to sell the hydroelectric plants along the Agus and Pulangi rivers but to rehabilitate them.

This city and the province of Surigao del Norte is now on a three-hour rotational brownouts daily. But other areas in Mindanao even have longer brownouts.

On Monday, the National Power Corporation warned that rotating brownouts in Mindanao will further worsen next month with the summer season as the water level in Lake Lanao will decrease. NPC said the decreasing water level will force it to limit power generation from the 700-megawatt Agus power complex.

The announcement came on the heels of a DOE proposal to create the Interim Electricity Market in Mindanao (IMEM), which will reportedly cause power rates to increase by 30 centavos per kilowatt hour.

But the senator does not see the reported solution believing that the energy department should instead “immediately conduct a study on the viability of self-generating capacity.” (Vanessa L. Almeda / MindaNews)

S. Kudarat town under close watch for election violence

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 11 April) – Authorities are closely watching the campaign activities of political camps in President Quirino town in Sultan Kudarat province due to the possible escalation of violent incidents in the area in the run-up to the May 13 midterm national and local elections.

Chief Supt. Charles Calima Jr., Region 12 police director, said the security situation in President Quirino town has remained volatile in the last several weeks due to the continuing threats on the life of reelectionist Mayor Emilio Salamanca.

Salamanca, who is running under the United Nationalist Alliance, figured in two daring attacks at his residence in Tacurong City in November and December last year that authorities believed were linked to his reelection bid.

“There are still threats on the major’s (Salamanca) life. So I instructed our personnel there to make sure that his campaign sorties and routes are properly secured,” Calima said in an interview with ABS-CBN General Santos.

The official said they have been closely coordinating with the Salamanca camp for other security-related assistance that they might need.

He noted that they cannot provide bodyguards for the mayor but they can arrange for police security escorts during his campaign activities.

The incumbent mayor is being challenged by Liberal Party (LP) bet Azel Mangudadatu, who lost in their first faceoff in the 2010 elections.

Azel is the wife of outgoing mayor and now LP vice mayoral candidate Freddie Mangudadatu of Mangudadatu town in Maguindanao.

On November 8 last year, unidentified suspects fired a rifle grenade at Salamanca’s residence along Malvar St. in Tacurong City.

No one was injured in the explosion, which happened near the gate of the residential compound.

Another grenade exploded inside the Salamanca compound on December 27 but one of the alleged suspects was killed in an ensuing firefight with the mayor’s security escorts. The attacker’s cohort was later arrested by responding policemen.

Despite these, Calima said they still don’t consider President Quirino as a potential election hotspot or an area of immediate concern.

The official said they have not yet declared any possible areas of immediate concern in Region 12 for the upcoming elections.

Southwestern Mindanao, which is also known as the Soccsksargen Region, comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato as well as the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

In the previous elections, several areas in the region were initially declared as areas of immediate concern but most of them were later downgraded to just areas of concern.

Last month, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) set four levels of security classification – area of concern, area of immediate concern, area of grave concern, and area under Comelec-control – for the May polls.

Police units were given the authority to determine which places are areas of concern but were required to coordinate with the Comelec and conduct further verification in case they upgrade their classification into immediate concern and grave concern.

Meantime, Calima said they have also intensified their operations against wanted personalities and other criminal elements in the region.

“There might be some people who will offer their services to the candidates. We’re trying to prevent this from happening through what we call our market disruption operations,” he added. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)

3 sites considered for Bukidnon’s airport

MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 11 April) – Three sites inspected for the proposed domestic airport in Bukidnon are “technically feasible,” with the final selection hinging on the economic and financial feasibility of the project.

Raul Glorioso, department manager of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) aerodrome engineering unit, told MindaNews the proposed project is still at the feasibility study stage expected to be done in July 2013. After which, he added, they will be ready with recommendations and fund sourcing.

He cited the three sites as an airstrip in the municipality of Don Carlos, another area in Cabangahan here in Malaybalay, and in Dabongdabong, Valencia City.

Glorioso said they inspected the three sites during the April 3-4 visit of the team the leads. The team included a representative from Philjac, Inc. and Science Vision for Technology, tasked to conduct the feasibility study for the project initially dubbed “Bukidnon Airport Development Project.”

The study intends to determine the air travel demand for Bukidnon and “identify the most suitable site for a new airport.” The study also seeks to check the most effective and efficient way to serve the air travel requirements “not only of Bukidnon, but as well as of the Central Mindanao area.”

Glorioso and the team also held a coordination and consultation meeting with different sectors for assistance in providing relevant data and information needed in the study.

During the consultation, Roderico Bioco, president of the Bukidnon Kaamulan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (BKCCII), welcomed the expansion to three proposed sites.

He said they were told that the proposed airport needs at least 180 to 200 hectares and a runway of about 2.1 kilometers. He cited that one issue in airport development is land acquisition.

MindaNews reported in August 2012 that the CAAP has recommended the development of the existing airstrip in Maray-maray in Don Carlos into an international airport based on statements from Bukidnon Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr.

Zubiri revealed it in a meeting with members of the Bukidnon Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BKCCI) then.

Citing the CAAP’s technical report, a MindaNews source said the airport, when developed, can accommodate up to 4C type of aircrafts like the Boeing 737 or Airbus 320. The report has also recommended the conduct of a feasibility study to determine the economic viability of the proposed project.

The BKCCI has backed the development of an airport in Bukidnon.

Roberto Tinsay, BKCCI vice president for membership, said they are pushing for it for the benefit of business and development in the province.

“It will boost business in Bukidnon and change the landscape of the business environment in the province,” said Manny James Cudal, chair of the Bukidnon Micro-Small-Medium Enterprise Development Council.

“If you have a fast delivery of good s and services, you have faster returns of investment,” he added.

Cudal said that while the airport needs a big investment, “the return of investment could trickle down to the people.”

“It will pave the way to easier transportation access especially with the transfer of airport operations,” he added.

Ever since, Bukidnon travellers have to go to the Lumbia Airport in Cagayan de Oro City, about two hours away from this city. But a new airport is about to be opened in Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental to replace the Lumbia Airport.

Maite Abellanosa, point person for tourism at the BKCCI, noted that the transfer of airport operations to Laguindingan is disadvantageous to Bukidnon because it is farther and thus more time consuming and costly.

Abellanosa said it is difficult to promote Bukidnon without its own airport.(Walter I. Balane/MindaNews)