Transport secretary Arthur Tugade inaugurated on Thursday Palawan’s newest airport in San Vicente as the town bids for a tourism boom with the promotion of its main natural attraction, a 14-kilometer white beach which local officials hope will start drawing major tourism traffic starting this year.
Tugade said the P62.7 million San Vicente Airport will provide another gateway to Palawan apart from the Puerto Princesa City International Airport, adding it will start accommodating commercial flights by Philippine Airlines starting June.
“President Rodrigo Duterte is committed to ensuring tourism growth in the Philippines. In order for tourism to flourish, we have to put in place what we call ‘connectivity’ and ‘interoperability,’” he said in a press conference.
Town officials said they are anticipating the arrival of some 100,000 tourists in the central Palawan town this year. The town, located some 186 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa City, boasts of 22 islands and islets.
“We started out by firstly assessing our tourism readiness, checking how ready we are for the possible influx of tourists, not just because we are an up-and-coming tourism destination but mainly because of the spillover of tourists from Boracay, El Nido, and Coron,” James Inawasan, San Vicente’s municipal administrator, said.
Inawasan said the opening of San Vicente for commercial operation was a “good timing as the municipal government is very aggressive in its preparations when it comes to tourism development.”
He also pointed out that as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have launched a crackdown on erring tourism establishments in established Palawan destinations like El Nido and Coron, they have also imposed environmental compliance in the town, particularly in Barangay Port Barton which is one of San Vicente’s main attractions.
“There will be a number of establishments who will be compelled to self-correct,” he said, citing problems with drainage, septic tanks, coastal easement and road setback as among the common environmental law violations.
These tourism-related problems observed, Inawasan added, would be addressed by the town’s updated “sustainable and inclusive municipal tourism code” that would take effect within the next two months.
The airport’s construction began in 2009 and was opened to use by to light charter aircraft on June 2017.
Meanwhile, Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez said they submitted an airport development project proposal to the national government which includes the construction of another airport in Bgy. Abongan in Taytay town, an hour drive from San Vicente.
“We’re proposing one more international airport in Taytay to service El Nido, as well as the northern island towns of Linapacan, Dumaran and Araceli,” he told the media. The proposed airport, he added, can initially accommodate two trips of Airbus A330 from Europe.
Alvarez also said the provincial government is also eyeing another airport development in southern Palawan that would connect to China.
“It is being pushed by Chinese investors because they want to bring in spices from southern Palawan to China,” he said.
Tugade said his department will endorse the proposed airport projects.
“In less than two years, we opened the international airport in Puerto Princesa and now San Vicente. We are also assessing other areas for the possibility of constructing additional airports,” he said.