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New San Vicente airport in Palawan to boost local tourism industry

SHORELINE. Aerial shot of San Vicente’s stunning 14-km long beach. Photo courtesy of James Inawasan

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Philippines – The rising tourism town of San Vicente in northern Palawan expects more visitors in the future with its newly-opened airport.

After almost 8 years since construction began in 2009, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines officially opened the airport "for general aviation" at 8 am Thursday, June 22.

That means the airport can accommodate only private planes for now, but Mayor Maria Carmela Alvarez gave assurances it will operate commercially by the "last quarter of this year or early next year." (READ: Palawan’s Pie Alvarez and eco-tourism)

"We are confident that commercial operations are forthcoming," Alvarez said. "We have talks with PAL [Philippine Airlines] and Cebu Pacific management teams already, and they both have expressed strong interest to open flights here in the soonest time possible."

As a regional airport, she added that "there’ll be direct flights from abroad," like San Vicente to Bangkok, Hongkong, and Singapore.

REGIONAL AIRPORT. The San Vicente Airport’s terminal building. Photo courtesy of San Vicente Info Section ALL SET. The airport’s terminal building with newly-installed chairs. Photo courtesy of San Vicente Facebook page

Booming tourism

The airport is seen to boost even more San Vicente’s booming tourism industry.

According to Municipal Administrator James Inawasan, without the airport the town had seen a 37% increase in tourist arrivals in 2016. "From 16,000 tourists in 2015, we reached 21,000 last December," he said.

Just these past 5 months, the town had already hit the 15,000-mark. "With the opening of the airport, we’ll probably hit our 2021 projection – which is 50,000 arrivals – as early as this year," Inawasan said. (READ: Silence, back to basics in stunning San Vicente, Palawan)

OPERATIONAL. Mayor Pie Alvarez says the airport will operate commercially soon. Photo courtesy of James Inawasan

To prepare the airport for commercial operation, he said the Department of Transportation has already allotted funding for the concreting of the vehicular parking area, and construction of the tower and other navigational facilities and utilities.

"Our runway is 1,612 meters length x 45 meters width," Inawasan said, adding that it will be extended by another 300 meters x 45 meters to make it 1.9 kilometers in length anytime soon to accommodate not just light aircrafts but also air buses.

Considered the Philippines’ first Flagship Tourism Enterprise Zone, San Vicente boasts of 22 islands and islets with fine white sand beaches, azure-blue waters, abundant rainforest, and exotic biodiversity. It is well known for its stunning 14-km pearly white beach. (READ: San Vicente, Palawan: The rise of the ecotown)

San Vicente, a first-class municipality of nearly 31,000 inhabitants, is located 186 kilometers north of the provincial capital. – Rappler.com