Beng leads groundbreaking rites for runway rehab today PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 05 September 2014 12:47

Mayor Beng Climaco today leads the groundbreaking rites for the rehabilitation of the dilapidated portions of the runway at the Zamboanga City International Airport.

The runway rehabilitation project will be funded by the American government through the Joint Special Operations Task Force Philippines (JSOTF-P).

It will be recalled that Mayor Climaco had personally appealed to former US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr., when the latter paid his exit call on the local chief executive in City Hall last year, to help repair the airport’s runway.

Climaco echoed similar request to the new US Ambassador to the Philippines Philip Goldberg when the latter paid a courtesy visit to City Hall late last year.

The mayor’s request was anchored on the fact that the American aircraft and servicemen participating in the military exercises with Filipino soldiers under “Balikatan” have been using the airport facilities especially the runway since the war games started few years ago.

Climaco believes that the airstrip has worn out with the times that it needs rehabilitation to ensure the safety of the aircrafts and passengers flying in and out of the city.

The groundbreaking program will start at 10 a.m. today with the presence of JSOTF-P representatives, airport manager and officials of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP).

A symbolic switch on of the equipment will highlight the program.

A Wikipedia account has it that the airport started off as Moret Field, an American airfield that was constructed from a rather poor Japanese airfield just north of Zamboanga. Construction was started by Philippine Commonwealth troops just after American forces landed at the present location on March 15, 1945. It was improved by a U.S. Army airfield construction unit using considerable Filipino labor.

At the peak of the airport’s operations in 1945, there were about 300 aircraft flying from the airfield. The vast majority were United States Marine Corps aircraft from Marine Aircraft Group 24 which were supporting U.S. Army infantry operations on Mindanao but also ranging down the Sulu area as far as Borneo.

On December 10, 2004, South Phoenix Airways announced its international flights to Sandakan and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia, but it was eventually cut due to poor load of passengers

Due to the US-RP Agreement, the US Air force used the airport while the Balikatan exercises were held in the city. The biggest aircraft to land in Zamboanga International Airport is the Russian Antonov An-124-100 Ruslan made to deliver helicopters and some equipment for the American troops here in Zamboanga. North American Airlines Boeing 757-200s were chartered to transport American soldiers from Guam to Zamboanga. Boeing C-17 Globemaster IIIs flying from Okinawa comes to Zamboanga every now and then. Gemini Air Cargo’s DC-10 was once in Zamboanga Airport for delivery of the materials needed for the US Air Force training.

There were plans to transfer the airport to a 104-hectare lot located between Barangays Talabaan and Taluksangay in the east coast, possibly making it the largest airport yet in Mindanao.— Vic Larato