Bugsuk Island, Balabac. (Google maps)

BALABAC, Palawan — Two airports currently under development here will be crucial to the transformation of Palawan’s southernmost region as a new tourist haven, Governor Jose Alvarez said Friday.

Governor Alvarez was referring to the Bugsuk International Airport in Bugsuk Island and a separate airport being constructed for the Philippine Air Force (PAF) installation in Barangay Catagupan, which covers a 300-hectare land size.

“Balabac is bigger than Singapore, kapag natapos ko ‘yong road at na-connect ang mga barangay [ay it will be] one such beautiful place. If there is El Nido in the north, we will open Balabac to everyone [in the south],” Alvarez said.

“Itong Balabac ay very progressive, in the next 25 years these people [ay] sila ang mag-eenjoy nito,” he added.

The airport facility in Bugsuk is currently under development, but Governor Alvarez said its runway is already operational and can be used by visitors to Balabac.

“The terminal is not yet built, but people land there already going to Balabac. Can you imagine, what kind of hanap-buhay will these people will have dahil maraming turista ang darating dito dahil d’yan sa international airport na ‘yan? That is the contribution to tourism by the San Miguel Corporation,” he said.

The airport was originally built by San Miguel properties, according to Alvarez, to support an experimental coconut plantation.

“Dapat sana for imported variety from Malaysia, Africa, so on and so forth — the best nuts, but the project failed,” he said.

Once completed, Alvarez said the airport will be able to support the landing of airbuses capable of transporting a large number of passengers, especially on short routes.

Alvarez noted that numerous projects, including an 83-kilometer road, are still needed in the town.

Better than Maldives
Alvarez compared Balabac to the Maldives, but stressed that its natural attributes are better than the famous Caribbean destination.

“Malayo ang Maldives sa Balabac, Maldives is low-lying islands. When the sea level goes up to two meters, maraming isla sa Maldives ang mawawala [pero] sa Balabac elevated, walang mawawala dito,” he said.

Sanctuary for estuarine crocodiles
He emphasized, however, that Balabac should also include a crocodile reserve or habitat.

Citing Florida in the United States as an example, he said that people and crocodiles may cohabit if hazards are comprehended and their presence is limited to a single location.

“We just have to control the presence of so much crocodiles because in Florida humans co-exist with the reptiles dahil maraming pagkain. Dito kasi kapag gutom ang buwaya ay tao ang [inaatake],” he said.

“But we have a way of controlling, ilagay natin sa isang lugar. They will just be there, then ang mga turista ay bibili ng poultry at ibibigay nila sa crocodile,” Alvarez added.

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is the chief of correspondents of Palawan News. She covers defense, politics, tourism, health, and sports stories. She loves to travel and explore different foods.