ALUNAN: LOAKAN AIRPORT CAN SERVE AS HELIPORT
BAGUIO CITY — The Loakan airport can best be utilized as a “heliport” just like how it was used during the 1990 earthquake, former tourism and interior secretary Rafael Alunan said here Friday.
Alunan told the media how they at the tourism department used the Loakan airport using C-130 planes of the Philippine Air Force and the United States Air Force, as well as small choppers to transport people and goods after the 1990 killer quake struck Baguio, isolating the city from the rest of the country.
Alunan served the tourism department during the time of former president Corazon Aquino and later as interior secretary during the term of former president Fidel V. Ramos.
“I remember Loakan during the earthquake. That was my forward operating base. My team from the DOT would be processing tourists we would find scattered all over Baguio, process them there and bring them out of Baguio via helicopter,” he said.
During the earthquake, he said, they used the airport for a month but it continued to serve as a heliport for several months until the roads opened. He also said that they used the Loakan airport in transporting goods.
The Cordillera Regional Development Council is backing Baguio’s city government in its bid to have the Loakan airport rehabilitated and developed, not just to transport passengers but also export goods produced by locators at the Baguio city export processing zone.
The export processing zone in Baguio houses a United States micro-chip producing company and an aerospace spare parts company aside from other goods and apparels.
Alunan proposed converting Loakan into a heliport to address such issues as short runway and other safety concerns. “It all depends on technology now and economy of scale but I would like to see Loakan airport converted into a heliport,” he said.
“The main airport will be in La Union and helicopters in La Union to bring passengers to Baguio and the same helicopters to service the region — the only way to get from one place to another in a shorter (time),” he said.
While developing the airport and modernizing it would be more enticing to airlines and tourists, as is, its tarmac area is large enough to serve as a heliport, he said.
Alunan remembered how the airport serviced the country and how its revival is necessary not just for business but for accessibility even during calamities.
Commercial operations of the airport were given up by airline companies in the 2000s due to costly air fare, safety reasons and lack of demand. (PNA)
Photo by Mau Victa/Rappler