By Ali Macabalang
KIDAPAWAN CITY – The nine-year delay in the operation of the P590-million airport in M’lang, North Cotabato was caused by technical deficiency, not politics, according to outgoing Governor Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza.
The office of Gov. Mendoza made the clarification following by incoming Governor Nancy Catamco to operationalize the mothballed facility, known as Central Mindanao Airport, as one of her priority projects.
The report contained a claim by former governor, now Agriculture Secretary Manny Piñol that the stunted airport operation was due to his political defeat to Mendoza in the 2010 gubernatorial elections.
The lady governor had “declared that she would not touch the project, claiming its construction was sub-standard,” Piñol said in an article he posted on the M’lang local government website on January 17, 2013.
The stiff political rivalry between Mendoza and Piñol is public knowledge in Central Mindanao, especially in North Cotabato. The two officials slugged it out again in the 2013 gubernatorial polls where the lady politician won anew.
In a statement Thursday, Gov. Mendoza’s office said there was a “misunderstanding” on the issue because the operational “delay” in the airport “was not influenced by political considerations.”
It said the airport was built “without” a feasibility study needed in government to ensure “right” project implementation “before committing resources, time, and budget.”
“For every one’s information, the feasibility study for this Central Mindanao Airport was completed only in December 2018,” the statement said, pointing out the Mendoza administration’s “support” for the continuity of the project by way of mending its technical and legal deficiency.
Mendoza’s office said its “remedial” efforts included continuing coordination the Department of Transportation and Communications and Department of Public Works and Highways not only to meet requirements but also to bring the airport facility to an “international standard.”
The governor’s office said it has acquired 39.20-hectare lands for the expansion of the airport currently containing a 1.2-kilometer runway, a terminal building, and 1.2-kilometer fence.
As of April 2018, ten of forty-three (43) landowners involved in the acquired lands have already been paid the amount corresponding to 14 hectares, the governor’s office said.
It said the DPWH has funded under its 2017 budget the concrete paving of 3.006-kilometer access road worth P100-million.
Subordinate technical workers said Gov. Mendoza would properly turn over complete documents concerning assets and liabilities on various projects, including the airport, to incoming Gov. Catamco on July 1.
In an earlier statement, Catamco said she would immediately push for the airport operation to bring North Cotabato to greater heights.
Catamco, an outgoing three-term congresswoman of the province’s second district, defeated in the recent midterm poll Carmen town Mayor Roger Taliño, father of Gov. Mendoza. Mendoza was elected vice governor, defeating board member Socrates Pinol, younger brother of the agriculture secretary. The Catamco and Piñol families were allied in the latest political exercises.