BEHIND THE LINES: It’s about time PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 27 October 2014 11:49



San Jose, CA. — Finally, we’re getting somewhere — after four decades of too much politics. As I browsed over the photos of DZT’s issue  of October 23 issue, I leaped with joy seeing Mayor Climaco-Salazar presiding over a conference with the director of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), her planning chief (who was a former employee of NEDA) and concerned individuals about the prospects of having a new airport. Gee whiz, people. This project will make Zamboanga the hub of business and commerce in Mindanao, considering that we can easily connect with our Asean neighbors using the Brunei-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) highway to business and trade as envisioned by former President Fidel V. Ramos and executed by then Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Paul Dominguez.

I have crusaded for this project since Mayor Cesar C. Climaco (the mayor’s uncle) sat down with the late Jose Dans, then secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), in 1981 in his old Santa Maria residence in the presence of his executive assistants and the late Rustico Varela, Climaco’s city administrator. Sec. Dans unfolded the blueprint for a new airport in Mercedes or Masinloc Pt. (somewhere in Arena Blanco, I believe) that earned the nod of “Triple C”, at that time Marcos’s fiercest critic in the south. Finely honed to accept Marcos’s message of good tidings after presiding over an opposition city, CCC said that a new airport would bring “progress” to a city that has been bloodied by bombings and summary executions, thus, making Zamboanga the most unwanted city to visit. Yet, the tourists at that time kept coming despite the negative publicity due to the horrifying rise of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and militants walking in the steps of Nur Misuari in the south and Hashim Salamat in the north. If I’m not mistaken, M/V Doulos was the last mercy ship to dock in Zamboanga in 1991. The sad and highly-regrettable departure of the vessel is better left in the archives of the old Zamboanga Times and the defunct The Morning Times.

As “force cannot give right” (Thomas Jefferson), Mayor Climaco in an open-letter to the separatist movement appealed for peace and pleaded to spare Zamboanga from the “war” and instead make her the “Switzerland of the South” where the Muslim fighters can go for rest-and-recreation. (Incidentally, intel has it that some Abu Sayyaf members are using Zamboanga as their R-and-R.)

At the moment, Zamboanga isn’t getting anywhere in terms of peace and order and progress that Climaco dreamed of — unless the airport project commences. Envision the entire prime property where the airport in presently situated being converted into a business/commercial/financial district, ala Makati, and you’ll have an idea what I’m saying. Imagine Mercedes and the barangays nearby developing into a second city because of new airport there. Mind-boggling, eh. Iloilo did it. Cagayan de Oro followed. Cebu was nothing until it transferred its airport to Mactan.

Eight months before his defeat and forced retreat (recollection), Erbie Fabian worked for the building of a new airport. It reached first base as he was able to trace where the documents have been gathering dust for years (at the DOTC office). You see, the late Mayor Maria Clara L.Lobregat pushed for it when the cost for a new airport was only P800 million. After her demise, nobody went for it. Now the cost is likely to hit P2 billion.

Going back to Erbie, he wrote then DOTC secretary, now DILG boss Mar Roxas, and asked that the project be reviewed and taken for consideration for a possible PPP (Private Public Partnership). But, politics got in the way as Roxas is the president of the Liberal Party of which Mayor Climaco-Salazar is staunch member, and Fabian belongs to the Nacionalista Party. Fabian, as you know, politely turned down an offer from Roxas to accept a high governmental post in favor of withdrawing from the race against Climaco-Salazar. But that’s water under the bridge.

A new airport, or the prospect of having one, will be Climaco-Salazar’s saving grace, her defining moment, after all the pitfalls, in getting re-elected in 2016 and retain her little kingdom by the sea. Zamboanga needs heavy infrastructure to improve employment and underemployment ratings. It needs hard-core leaders to development new ideas and norms for the greatest good. To this end, Mayor Climaco-Salazar can tap the intelligence and services of her cousin (for one peso a year), Sonny Cortez, a Facebook enthusiast (nut?). Sonny has an Economics degree from Ateneo de Manila University with major in urban development.