Friday Sep, 29 2023 11:54:16 AM

Plan to reopen strategic Lanao del Sur airport on

Economic News • 21:30 PM Sat May 20, 2023
John M. Unson
Bangsamoro government officials and local executives inspecting the Matling Airport that various sectors want reopened. (From Mark P. Mauyag)

COTABATO CITY - Local executives and members of the Muslim and Christian communities support the plan to reopen a mothballed airport in Malabang, Lanao del Sur to improve the investment climate in the area and in towns around.

The airport in Barangay Matling in Malabang in the second district of Lanao del Sur that has a 1,360-meter concrete runway started as a private rough airstrip of a cassava plantation developed in 1928 as the Matling Industrial and Commercial Corporation by traders from the United States of America who left after the outbreak of the Southern Philippine Moro secessionist conflict.

Paisalin P. Tago, transportation and communications minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, told reporters here Saturday they inspected the Matling Airport two weeks ago as part of an extensive study on the viability and possible strategic gains of having it reopened.

The airport was utilized in the 1980s by the Philippine Airlines for its small passenger planes that flew the Cotabato-Malabang-Iligan-Cagayan de Oro air route.

“We can’t just reopen that airport without the blessing of the central office of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines. Our effort is being done in close coordination with CAAP,” Tago, also a member of the 80-seat Bangsamoro interim parliament, said.

Mohammad O. Pasigan, chairman of the Regional Board of Investments-BARMM, said Saturday opening anew the Matling Airport to airline companies will improve the business climate in the second district of Lanao del Sur and in nearby Picong, Lanao del Norte and a number of towns in Maguindanao del Norte.

“We support that plan hence,” Pasigan said. 

Tago said they will involve the Mindanao Development Authority in trying to operate the Matling Airport again. 

Local officials in Malabang, an old seaside town where Barangay Matling is located, had also expressed support for the plan of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications-BARMM.

“If ever, we shall have that airport fenced first,” Tago said.

Tago was accompanied in his inspection of the Matling Airport by officials of the Malabang local government unit and Engineer Kamar P. Mauyag, assistant district engineer in the Lanao del Sur District Engineering Office under BARMM’s public works ministry.

Members of the Cotabato City Chinese Chamber of Commerce said they also favor the reopening of the Matling Airport.

Ronald Hallid D. Torres, chairman of the Bangsamoro Business Council, said having a functional airport in Malabang will give traders from outside of Lanao del Sur easy access to the province.

Lanao del Sur is known for agricultural products and centuries-old handicrafts, such as production of decorative brass wares and storage chests called “baor,” that are of export quality.

“If the business atmosphere in Lanao del Sur improves as a consequence of the resumption of operations of the Matling Airport, we can expect employment and trading opportunities too for the local communities,” Torres said.

The vast tracts of lands in Barangay Matling and in other areas around where American entrepreneurs once propagated cassava had been subjected to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, divided into small parcels now owned by Maranao and Visayan former company workers still in dire need of capacity-building interventions to boost their agricultural productivity. 

Tago said part of their study on what gains there can be in reopening the Matling Airport is how it can improve commerce and trade in the area.

“It’s like reorganizing a community and local stakeholders for all to have a share in the progress such can bring in,” Tago, also a Maranao who hails from the first district of Lanao del Sur, pointed out.


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