The largest and the first ever in Northern Mindanao, the Laguindingan International Airport has officially opened on June 15, 2013. The event is a milestone in the history of Northern Mindanao and the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan. Personnel of the old Lumbia airport move its equipment and facilities to the new airport which will serve the airline passengers of the region. Lumbia airport is turned over to the Philippine Air Force which will use it for its flight operations.
A flagship project of the Cagayan de Oro-Iligan Corridor Development Project (CIC), the new airport was conceptualized in 1991 during the term of the late President Corazon C. Aquino. The CIC was envisioned to develop a growth area in Northern Mindanao with the cities of Cagayan de Oro and Iligan as hubs of economic activities. The plan for the airport was started during the term of President Fidel V. Ramos. On January 10, 2006, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo led the ground breaking ceremony for the start of its construction.
The newly finished airport sits in 4.17 square kilometers of land at Barangay Moog, Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental. It has a 2.1-kilometer long and 45-meter wide runway. A 4.4-kilometer, four-lane access road connects the new airport to the Laguindingan national highway. It is 46 kilometers from Cagayan de Oro and 61.9 kilometers from Iligan. The airport is equipped with the most modern facilities. However, for the meantime, the airport will operate under the Visual Flight Rule (VFR) because the Instrument Landing System (ILS) which will enable the pilots to land plane at night and in poor visibility is yet to be installed.
The construction was undertaken by Yooshin Engineering of Korea, Schema Konsult Inc. of Ortigas Center, Pasig and Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Company, the general contractor of the project. Cost of the airport which was funded by the Philippine government and foreign loans was 167.09 million US dollars or 7.853 billion Philippine pesos.
On April 18, 2013, the Department of Communications and Transportation (DOTC) announced that the opening would be postponed to June 15 instead of April 30, 2013 because the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) received request from airline companies to postpone the transfer after the summer peak season because the April 30 opening would require cancellation of several booked flight tickets.
Business groups from Cagayan de Oro such as the Cagayan de Oro Chamber of Commerce Foundation Incorporated voiced their concern and opposition to the “premature” opening of the airport citing safety reasons since the new airport has yet to install the ILS which means that the airport could operate only during day time. They also added that the lack of night flights could mean losses in billions of pesos. But aviation authorities said that the problem can be dealt with by increasing the number of flights during the day. And that the airport can operate safely without the ILS. The Mactan International Airport in Cebu operated without ILS for 3 years.
CAAP Director General William Hotchkiss and Secretary of DOTC Joseph Emilio Abaya assured the public that the airport is safe for the aircraft and passengers. They added that the Laguindingan Airport is safer than Lumbia Airport because of the ideal ground elevation of the former. They said that Lumbia is difficult to land during extreme weather because it is on a mountainous ground with an elevation of 183 meters or 601 feet while Laguindingan is situated at a coastal area with an elevation of only 190 feet above sea level which makes it easier for a pilot to land a plane even in an unfavorable weather condition.
President Benigno Aquino III inspected and inaugurated the airport on June 11, 2013. He was met by notable personalities such as Governor Oscar Moreno, the newly elected mayor of Cagayan de Oro City, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma and Manila-based business Tycoon Jaime Zobel de Ayala. With the president were DILG Secretary Manuel Roxas III, DOTC secretary Jose Abaya and other presidential staff. The landing of the presidential plane at the airport’s runway is a tacit assurance from the president himself that the airport is indeed safe for airline passengers.
Remaining navigational aid equipment is expected to be installed within this year and that by early 2014 the airport will be capable of accommodating bigger planes for international flights such as an airbus with a seating capacity of 300 passengers. The volume of traffic in 2012 in Lumbia airport is about 1.4 million of passengers. The new airport at Laguindingan has a terminal that can accommodate 1.6 million of passengers annually. Another terminal will be constructed to accommodate the influx of more passengers in the future. The Laguindingan International Airport will surely boost tourism and economic activities of Northern Mindanao with the city of Cagayan de Oro having the lion’s share of the economic windfall that comes with the opening of the new international standard airport.