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By Lily O Ramos

MANILA – The Department of Tourism (DOT) is extending its full support to the Caticlan airport expansion project which, upon completion, is expected to accommodate 1.2 million passengers annually from its present capacity of 700,000.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

AN airline suspended its flights to Caticlan in Malay, Aklan after aviation authorities ordered new operating procedures in the Godofredo Ramos Airport in the said town.

In a statement, Cebu Pacific airline said it will suspend its Manila-Caticlan flights starting July 9 until further notice after the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) imposed the “one-way landing, one-way take-off” policy.

“We have therefore decided to divert all Caticlan flights to Kalibo instead and from there bus all our Boracay-bound passengers at no extra cost,” said CEB President and CEO Lance Gokongwei.

The new CAAP policy started June 26, a day after a Zest Air plane carrying 55 passengers and crew overshot the Caticlan airport.

The Caticlan airport, which is the gateway to Boracay Island, has Runways 06-24. Before the CAAP order, pilots could use either runways for take off or landing.

The CAAP discouraged using runway 24 for landing because of a 39-meter hill near the runway.

The CAAP ordered that runway 06 will be used for take off only while runway 24, which is 950 meters long, will be used for landing only.

In its investigation, CAAP found the Zest Air plane attempted to land on runway 24 but touched down past the landing area marked by white grid lines while trying to avoid the hill.

The plane’s momentum carried it beyond the runway’s end and settled on a grassy area of the field.

The one-way landing, one-way take-off policy will take effect while the Caticlan airport is being rehabilitated. This policy on the airport has been published in the Aeronautical Information Publication since last year.

CEB has been operating direct flights to Caticlan since February 29, 2008 and has since then carried over 340,000 passengers.

CEB mounted as many as 15 round-trip flights daily to Caticlan until June 25.  More than 60,000 booked passengers will be affected by the cancellation.

Gokongwei said “We continue to work closely with our industry partner, the CAAP, to find a speedy resolution, to these airport issues, to allow Cebu Pacific to re-instate flights to Caticlan.

“Boracay continues to be one of the country’s most important tourism destinations.   CEB’s low fare service has been integral to the growth and development of the island’s tourism industry and has increased its accessibility to both local and foreign tourists.” 

Affected passengers may call the call center (02) 702-0888 / (032) 230-8888 or visit the website http://www.cebupacificair.com for more details and updates on their flights.

Also, the CAAP, upon recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), shortened the length of the two runways.

Runway 06 was reduced from 950 meters to 825 while runway 24 was reduced to 875 meters.

The restriction was adopted following an inspection by foreign consultants hired by the CAAP to assess the airport.

The consultants said the runways’ design posed a real hazard to aircraft operations.

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