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The planned 300-hectare Philippine Air Force (PAF) base in Barangay Catagupan, Balabac town is expected to be accomplished in 2021, an official said.

1Lt Rufina Phainaa Sabello, Tactical Operations Wing West (TOW WEST) public information officer), told Palawan News Monday that the project is ongoing and is about midway into completion.

“Actually, nasa 41.25 percent na po tayo, tuloy-tuloy naman po ang construction ng ating airport doon. Base sa plano, ito po ay inaasahan na matatapos sa 2021 pero hindi pa natin alam kung anong quarter. Ang agaran na pagpapatakbo nito ay hindi pa natin matiyak kasi nakadepende tayo sa budget,” she said.

Sabello said that the implementing agency of the airport is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the beneficiary upon its completion are the provincial government and the Philippine Airforce.

“Basically ay ‘yon DPWH ang implementing agency natin dito. [This project] is under ng provincial government at PAF. Upon completion po nito ay isang beneficiary ay ang PAF pero ‘yong mga facilities na itatayo ay ima-manage ng mga government agencies. Kapag natapos ‘yon ay isa tayo doon magma-manage doon, hindi lang sa atin but joint use po ito,” Sabello said.

Sabello also clarified that they do not have any involvement with the reported violation of the project in relation to the facility’s environment compliance certificate (ECC).

“‘Yong sa tanong po regarding sa mga permits ay hindi po sa amin ‘yon kasi katulad nga ng sinabi ko ay beneficiary lang po ang PAF sa project na ito,” she said.

The facility is designed to operate as a terminal point for civilian airline companies to move people and finally unlock southern Palawan’s tourism potentials for economic growth.

Current wing commander Col. Gerry Soliven said recently during a press conference at the headquarters of the Western Command (WESCOM) that the facility could be also used as an airport as proposed by the provincial government.

“Puwede kasi maging dual use ang airbase. It can be used also as an airport katulad dito sa Puerto Princesa [City],” he said.

In 2018, former PAF chief Lt. Gen. Galileo Gerard Kintanar Jr. signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Palawan governor Jose Alvarez for the construction of the airbase in Catagupan that will later be called Balabac Air Base (BAB).

Alvarez said setting aside the use of government property in Balabac is the province’s contribution to efforts to secure the West Philippine Sea (WPS) and the southern border.

He also expressed optimism that the PAF base development will help spur economic growth in southern Palawan.

Former Western Command (WESCOM) commander Admiral Rene Medina said that AFP has planned to put up a naval station in the municipality to provide local logistic support to the airbase.

“‘Yong naval station wala pa, nasa planning stage pa lang, but we are looking forward that we can have a station in the area so that the air force and the navy can jointly conduct security patrols in Balabac,” he said.