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Philippines: Proposed Panglao International Airport makes no Sense

Philippines:  Proposed Panglao International Airport makes no Sense | Infrastructure |

15 June 2011 


For many years, the possibility of an International Airport on Panglao has been under discussion, and it now seems closer to reality than ever before. The proposed airport has been promoted as a means to give Bohol an economic development boost, and in particular, to improve its attractiveness as a tourist destination. Since we exist to promote this wonderful island, it could be expected that this website applauds this project. However, this is not the case. We believe that there is no justification for a new international airport in Bohol: it would be a waste of resources that could be better spend otherwise, and that it will actually be a detraction for tourists and the development of Bohol.


Image Caption: Location of the proposed Panglao Airport superimposed on the NAMRIA map 3720-II, showing how the approach is just above Alona Beach, Bohol's best known beach.


Statistics are hard to get and not always reliable, but I'll try to summarize and estimate what tourism is bringing to Bohol. Currently, Bohol welcomes about 35.000 foreign visitors a year, and a similar number of domestic tourists. The total number of visitors in 2004 was 162.000, but that figure probably includes some business visits and family visits from Boholanos working in Cebu and Manila. Visitors stay on average 4 nights. Bohol has about 3000 beds available in about 60 hotels, resorts, inns, and guest houses. The occupancy rate (in 2003) was 46 percent, which means in that year we had about half a million visitor-nights. Assume that each visitor spends on average 100 US dollar per night (US 50 room rate, and about US 50 for meals, excursions, etc.). This leads to a gross income of 50 million dollar, of which roughly 30% will return to the government in shape of various taxes, that is, 15 million dollar per year.


Most tourists come to Bohol to enjoy its natural resources: in particular scuba divers come here to admire the underwater coral reefs. Another significant group are foreigners and former Filipinos who have relatives on the island.


The peak season is around Christmas, during which most resort class facilities are fully booked. Virtually all foreign tourist visit the Philippines by air, and the most likely ports of arrival are Manila and Cebu. Even though there is a domestic airport in Tagbilaran City, a large number of foreign tourists arrive by (fast) ferry from Cebu, especially those arriving via Mactan International Airport near Cebu. Most tourist currently arrive on regular flights. Tourists that currently arrive on charter flights (mainly from Japan) come on a package deal, and stay in one of the larger hotels on Mactan.


The trip to Bohol by boat from Manila takes about 25 hours, and is not a realistic option for tourists. The flight takes between one and two hours, depending on aircraft type. Transfer from NAIA in Manila to the domestic airport takes about one hour. Currently, there are one or two flights per day directly to Bohol, but a number of visitors may also choose to go via Cebu, which is served by numerous daily flights.


The trip by fast ferry from Cebu takes about one and a half hour. Unfortunately, transfer from Mactan Airport to the pier also takes about two hours, and requires dealing with the rather hectic traffic situation between Lapu-Lapu city and Cebu. Finally, the transfer from both the pier and the airport in Tagbilaran city to the resorts in Panglao takes about half an hour.


In conclusion, foreign tourists have to spend at least four to five hours after arriving in the Philippines to reach their destination in Bohol. This assumes schedules match perfectly. In practice, many visitors will be forced to spend a night in either Manila or Cebu before they can continue their trip to Bohol. Obviously, this delay is the main argument in favor of an International Airport on Bohol.

However, in this article, we will show that this is not enough justification for the considerable investments required.


An international airport in Panglao makes no economic sense

The construction of an international airport will costs something between 4 and 10 billion peso, or 80 to 200 million US dollar. For arguments sake, lets be optimistic and use the lower figure. At current interest rates, borrowing 80 million dollars will cost at least 5 million per year in capital costs. In addition, by my rough estimate, another 5 million dollar will be required every year for operation and maintenance of the facility. All in all, we are probably looking at running costs of about 10 million dollar per year (without paying back anything on the loan).


An international airport on Panglao will have little attraction to business travelers, so it is unlikely international airlines will set up regular business flights to Panglao. All revenues have to come from tourist arrivals. Income will have to come from landing fees, parking fees, per-passenger arrival and terminal fees, and income from the rent of facilities, such as restaurants, souvenir shops, catering and maintenance facilities. If we estimate such income at about USD 10 (PHP 520) per arriving or departing passenger, we will at least 500.000 visitors (one million movements) per year to break even, or about 12 daily departures and arrivals of medium size passenger jets.


Now assume half of all current visitors to Bohol will start to use the new airport. This will lead to about 80.000 visitors (160 000 movements) per year, or some 1.6 million dollar income. We are thus facing a yearly deficit of over 8 million dollars. To break even, we need to increase that number at least six-fold. Otherwise, huge yearly government subsidies will be required. This increase will have to come from charter flights bringing in new tourists, and to welcome them, the tourist facilities in Panglao have to increase similarly.


Tourism at Panglao cannot increase six-fold


It is an often heard cliché that tourism destroys what it seeks, but it will be very well applicable to Panglao if this airport project takes off. Tourists visit Panglao to relax. To break free from the hustle and bustle of their hectic lives, and leave behind their worries for a couple of days or weeks.


As argued above, to recoup the huge investment made in the airport, the number of arrivals and visitor-nights in Bohol, and thus the number of rooms, have to be increased at least six-fold. This means further considerable investment in touristic infrastructure, such as hotels, roads, and so on. This will cost at least as much as the airport itself.


What will this mean for Panglao?


For a six-fold increase in visitors, we need to add about 5000 rooms. Consider Shangri-La's Mactan Island Resort in Cebu. This huge complex has 547 rooms. Imagine 10 of these on Panglao. You get the picture. All these people also need to come and go, so imagine on average 12 flights per arriving and departing every day. Instead of peace and relaxation, visitors will enjoy low-flying noisy airplanes 24 times a day. Also consider at further infrastructure, such as roads, shopping centers, entertainment facilities, and so on, required to support this influx of tourists.


All this is clearly beyond the capacity of Panglao. To list just a few of the bottlenecks:


Water resources are already strained on Panglao. Most resorts can only offer brackish water for showers and baths. To resolve this issue, fresh water will need to be brought in (preferably by pipe) from the mainland, or a desalination facility will be required.
Although attractive, the beaches are limited in capacity. Even the largest beach on Panglao is not as long, and half as wide as the beach on Boracay. In size, they are certainly no match for the beaches along the Spanish Costas. Their charm lies much in not being too large.

The coral reefs can only handle a limited number of divers, snorkelers, and other water sports enthusiasts. Beyond that, they will irreparably be damaged, and loose their attraction for further visitors.

The number of whale-watching and dive operator boats currently take up half the available space on Alona beach. Increasing this six-fold will make the beach look like Manila harbor rather than a relaxing stretch of white sand.

Waste disposal is problematic. Just a few meters behind the beach, one can easily spot piles of rubbish. Stray waste and stray dogs flourish. Toilets, baths, and kitchen sinks need to empty somewhere, and cannot simply flow into the soil or sea.

This means most of all these new tourists will not be able to enjoy the peace and nature Panglao currently has to offer. So what will they do?


Problems also appear in other areas:


Already today, resort owners have trouble finding skilled employees. Not that there is a lack of unemployed people, but for many jobs considerable social as well as business skills are required. Receptionists and other employees in the resorts need a certain level of professionalism to create and maintain a friendly atmosphere. Dive masters, guides, and other instructors need to master their subjects, and language skills are essential to welcome guests who do not know English, just as well as to deal with agents from the countries the tourists will come from.

So far, Panglao has been reasonable successful to keep prostitution out. However, with a six-fold increase of tourists, this will become a real challenge. Some of the men among the visitors will seek this type of "entertainment," which, given the social conditions in the country will attract plenty of young girls who see no alternative to earn a living and support their families. However, the effects will be devastating. It should also be remembered also that sex-tourism drives out all other tourists, who do not want to be confronted with it.
Land prices in Panglao have sky-rocketed the last few years. Five years ago, a parcel not too far from Alona beach would fetch about 300 pesos per square meter. Today, asking prices are close to 2000 pesos, probably due to airport and tourism related speculation. This means that for locals, it is now virtually impossible to obtain land - and that some locals will be tempted to sell and consume ancestral lands, thereby giving up their source of livelihood for some short-lived luxury.

Beaches become inaccessible for local fishermen. Traditional fishing communities can be locked out from their access to sea by various means.


Note also that large resorts tend to monopolize all potential tourist income, as they organize their own tours, have their own sports and entertainment facilities, and so on, and expatriate most generated income, whereas small scale resorts generate much more spin-off opportunities for the local entrepreneurs, and thus result in more income for local companies.


The conclusion can only be: an international airport in Bohol makes no economic sense, and is also irresponsible from an environmental and social point of view.




After concluding that an airport in Panglao doesn't make sense, what alternatives can be proposed to develop tourism in Bohol in a economically, socially, and environmentally responsible way. I can think of a number of things that can better be done with the available funds.


Protect assets. The provincial government should guard its assets for future generations. It should not kill the goose with the golden eggs, nor allow commercial exploiters, or just sheer indifference or poverty to do the same. Support should given to grass-roots initiatives to protect the marine environment, such as the small marine sanctuaries that have started to appear around the coastline. Destructive fishing methods should be stopped. Historical buildings need proper attention and repairs to remain attractive. In tourist development zones, no buildings should be higher than the coconut trees.


Develop medium size resorts. Bohol can still offer space to a range of smaller and medium sized quality resorts, up to about 40 rooms, as long as each of these new resorts offer some unique selling points and a special atmosphere. Examples of such resorts with a special atmosphere may be Ananyana, or the Bohol Bee Farm. Such medium sized resorts offer much better opportunities for locals to be involved, and often offer better services to their customers.


Keep beaches free. Bohol should keep its beaches free. In all senses of the word: free for all visitors to enjoy, even if they cannot afford the high entrance prices of some of the resorts. This way, word-of-mouth advertising will have the widest reach. Even young backpackers traveling on a shoestring will grow older and return to stay in the better places. Beaches should also be free from stray waste, dirt and other annoyances. In particular, the province should create and strictly enforce a no-build zone for the first 50 or even better 100 meters from the high-water line on the beach. This will create a commons that can be enjoyed by all. It should also keep the beaches free from too many hawkers. People don't mind watching somebodies wares once or twice during a beach holiday, but if they constantly have to send away over-zealous sales people, they will not return.


Streamline transfer from Mactan. As discussed above, the transfer time from Mactan to Cebu is currently at least 5 hours. In practice, visitors may even be forced to stay in Cebu overnight to get a reasonable connection to Bohol. To improve this, a fast ferry should be set up to go directly from Lapu-Lapu city to Bohol, with departure and arrival times synchronized with the arrival of charter or regular flights on Mactan.


Develop Tagbilaran City. Tagbilaran City as it is today is very unattractive. Streets are congested and polluted, and the city lacks attractions for visitors. Unlike Panglao, Tagbilaran is the place to develop a night-life with restaurants, discos, and other urban attractions. It would be really wonderful if Tagbilaran would open-up its sea front, and create a boulevard similar to that in Dumaguete City (and many foreign tourist destinations).


Improve tourism education. New resorts and hotels need employees, from the management level all the way down to the janitor. These skills need to be learned. Probably it is wise here to seek cooperation with an international educational institutions in this field. Ultimately, the aim should be that all jobs in tourism can be filled with qualified people from the local communities.


Spread tourist influx. Bohol is not just Panglao. Many other areas of Bohol can be developed, on a small-scale environmentally and socially sound base. The western coastline has many attractive spots. Northern Bohol has many reefs and islets that may offer opportunities. The Anda peninsula in the east has a wonderful beach, and so on.


Increase visa-on-arrival duration. Currently, tourists from western countries receive a visa-on-arrival that is valid for 21 days. For most tourists from Europe, this is just a little too short, as holidays tend to last 4 to 6 weeks. Most people don't like having to apply for or to extend visa, and may choose another destination instead. By extending that period to 42 days, more visitors may choose to come to the Philippines, and the benefits will probably exceed the loss in income from visa fees. Naturally, this is not something Bohol can do, but should it be lobbied for with the central government.

Develop out-door activities. Bohol offers plenty of opportunities for trekking, biking, camping-out, sailing, canoing, spelunking, and other out-door sports activities. Unfortunately, except for scuba diving, nobody is currently developing or promoting such activities. Who is going to jump into this opportunity?


Promote the Region. Bohol is part of a larger area with tourism potential, and should be included in prearranged tour itineraries that also include Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, and Camiguin, all easily reached by sea from Bohol. Together, these destinations can offer a varied set of attractions, both on the natural and cultural field, which will encourage visitors to come and stay longer in the Philippines.


When these recommendations are taken into account, tourism can develop gradually to levels that the island can sustain and absorb in its over-all development. This will also much better guaranty that economic benefits of tourism end up with the local population, and its ill-effects are avoided.


A new domestic airport in Bohol may make sense


One of the few valid arguments I heard for constructing a new airport in Bohol is that the current airport is reaching its limitations, and is being surrounded by residential buildings. The root cause of this problem is the lack of proper zonal planning, but that has already happened, and, with the current growth rate, is only expected to get worse.


Panglao may be a potential location for such a new airport, but other locations should also be considered, as long as they are within a reasonable distance from Tagbilaran. This way the domestic airport can serve as entry-point for domestic tourists, as well as foreign tourists who visit more places in the Philippines, without incurring the high costs of an international standard run-way and facilities for long-distance jet liners.


Status Update, 27 April 2006


In response to the issues raised by a number of opponents of the Airport project, including Panglao Municipal Tourism Council Vice Chair Agustin Cloribel and Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer Arius Ilano, Governor Erico Aumentado has hired a Japan-based infrastructure consulting firm to render feasibility studies. These studies should in particularly address the susceptibility of the airport to ground collapse on the karst soil of Panglao. (See the Bohol Times, 23 April 2006 issue.)


Although ground collapse is a potential risk when building on karst soil, I believe this can be addressed with technical measures, such as using an underground radar to locate cavities and re-enforce them where required, using concrete constructions. As a result, this study diverts the attention from the economical, environmental and social issues raised in this article, which are far more difficult to resolve.


Status Update, 25 May 2006


With some amazement, I read in the Bohol Sunday Post that just a meagre one percent of the Boholano's in the first district oppose the Panglao Airport Project, according to an opinion poll conducted by the HNU. To quote:


Only 1% was braved [sic] enough to register its opposition to the Panglao International Airport with a whooping 99% saying yes to the same project. Translated into the lowest terms, this means that Boholanos in the first district stood as one behind the planned airport in Panglao.

I can't say I'm impressed. Such results call into memory the former Soviet Union, were leaders too were elected with such unrealistic margins--and I hope we all remember how the Soviet Union ended. Curiously, the comments under this article give a completely different picture. Of course the people commenting here are self-selected, and, after reading through this rather lengthy article, they are probably more aware of the repercussions of the project--but still I would expect a few more comments by people in favor of this Airport. Hereby, people who are in favor of the Panglao Airport are invited to give their opinion here.


In the end, however, you can't decide on the sensibility of a project through an opinion poll with 200 people, who probably haven't studied the issue at hand. Before a democratic decision can be made, it is essential that all people who have a vote on the issue are well informed and can make an informed decision. This is exactly what is missing in this entire process: clear information and transparency.


Status Update, 14 March 2007


Not much news for the last half year or so on the airport front. However, the following article appeared on ABS-CBN Interactive:

President Arroyo announced Saturday that one of the world’s richest men, Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Alsaud, is planning to build one of his Raffles resorts in Panglao, Bohol.

In a speech at the Bohol Youth Day celebration, the President said that Prince Alwaleed intends to bring in another $150 million for the project. Earlier, Prince Alwaleed’s Kingdom Hotel Investments forged a tie-up with Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) for a $153-million hotel project at the Makati Central Business District.


Mrs. Arroyo said that the "decision of Prince Alwaleed to invest in Panglao was a result of her discussions with the heads of the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia during her state visit last year.

The President said the Saudi Prince has expressed interest in buying the entire property in Panglao held by the Fonaciers, with the help of ALI.


"They would like to buy the whole Fonacier property in Panglao to put up a six-star (luxury) resort," the President said.


The resort would carry the famous Raffles name of Kingdom Hotel Investments, which is chaired by Prince Alwaleed.


Panglao Island in Bohol is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, particularly for beach and diving enthusiasts.


The Arroyo administration has made the promotion and development of the tourism industry as among its priorities.

A bill that would provide fiscal and non-fiscal incentives for investments in tourism has been passed in the Senate but is still pending in the House of Representatives.


Once passed into law, the Tourism Act would pave the way for the establishment of tourist enterprise zones where investors would be given a package of fiscal and non-fiscal incentives.


The original source for this is on the president's website, in Cebuano. The relevant paragraph:


[...] I wonder Ace if I can announce...? May I announce the Kingdom Holdings? Tungod kay gwapo kaayo ang inyong mga baybay, inyong mga coral reefs, inyong hospitality, mga katawhan, I would like to announce that as a result of my state visit to Saudi Arabia last year, when I had a talk with the fourth richest man in the world, Prince Al Waleed of Saudi Arabia who invest the money of the royal family. Kingdom holdings headed by Prince Al Waleed has entered into a partnership with Ayala land and they would like to buy the whole Fonacier property in Panglao to put up a six-star resort, Raffles family. Ang ilang investment 150 million dollars diri sa Pilipinas ug sa Bohol.

What such a huge project will mean for Bohol remains to be seen. I will try to obtain more information on this issue.


I am much in favor of further development of Bohol. The future generation of Boholano's do need employment and opportunities. But it remains wise to be skeptical. Just looking at the amount, being talked about. No investor will invest such amounts without a solid business plan and a good prospect of return on investment. An investment of $150M will require a return of at least $15M annually, as otherwise it would be better to put the money on the bank for interest. Translating that to reasonable business figures, that is a margin of about 20 percent of $75M turn-around, which, looking at a rate of $200 per night per person translates to a staggering 375000 paid-for nights per year. To accommodate this, you need, taking into account seasonal variations, at least 2500 beds, or five times the Sangri-La in Mactan. All these figures are very rough estimates at the least, and only provided to give some idea of the scale involved.


Status Update, 19 May 2008


Coming Thursday, May 22, 2008, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will be present at a ground-breaking ceremony that will mark the beginning of the construction of this airport.


Although this is a serious set-back for those who oppose this project. It is not the end. Philippine history is filled with canceled projects. Again we see figures in the press that 99 percent of the population of Panglao support the project, figures that certainly do not match my informal asking around the last time I was in Panglao. Furthermore, this support certainly does not extend to many hotel owners on Alona Beach (those who are supposed to be rejoicing with the influx of new tourists), but who instead mourn in silence, realizing that the runway (located in Tawala, near the spot of the former Panglao airstrip which was decommissioned in the seventies) will force airplanes to fly straight over Alona Beach, causing unprecedented levels of noise on this once peaceful beach.


It is to be hoped that the start of construction will finally wake up the people affected to the disaster in the making, and will finally lead to some kind of coordinated opposition to this project that will dwarf both the Agora market complex and Loboc bridge as monuments of political mismanagement.


For me, Thursday marks a sad day, but then, I am sitting in a far away country, and can only provide arguments and reasoning. It is up to the people directly hurt, it is up to the grass-roots, to step up and prevent it.


Please read: this coverage of opposition to the project.


Status Update, 7 January 2011


Little news on the Airport for a while, however, this is an interesting link, showing that progress is quite stalled (luckily), but unfortunately not yet dead: article on Panglao Airport.


Status Update, 14 June 2011


I've finally found some further information. Now renamed "Bohol International Airport", the current government seems to be determined on completing this project by 2015. A feasibility study is now available on-line (although it dates back to 2007). I still have to study this report in detail, and update the many assumptions I've made above (more than five years ago). Interestingly, the 4 billion pesos I mentioned in my article back in 2006 is almost exactly the amount given in this study.

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Philippines mulls international airport in Bohol

Philippines mulls international airport in Bohol | Infrastructure |

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011


TAGBILARAN, Bohol, Philippines—The Philippine government is studying whether to expand the existing Tagbilaran airport or push through with the proposed international airport on resort island of Panglao, President Benigno Aquino told reporters here.

Aquino made the remarks following a briefing on the proposal to build an airport on Panglao island to accommodate more tourists.
Aquino said the existing Tagbilaran airport, with its 1.7-kilometer runway, only needs an additional several hundreds of meters of runway to accommodate large aircraft.

“The bottom line is how can we hasten, with the structure already in place, to improve the economy (of Bohol),” Aquino said.

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Malaysia | The Last Frontier

Malaysia | The Last Frontier | Infrastructure |

14 Sep 2012


Alleged corruption, rights violations and environmental degradation plague Malaysia's controversial Bakun project.


Thousands are set to lose their homes, as a controversial hydro power scheme gets underway.


In the Malaysian state of Sarawak, the Bakun Dam has already flooded an area the size of Singapore. Some of those displaced say they’ve never received the full compensation they were promised.

The state government, working with Australian company Hydro Tasmania, is embarking on an ambitious plan to build a further 12 dams - flooding vast tracts of river valley land - and displacing tens of thousands of indigenous people.


Hydro Tasmania, an Australian state-owned energy company is involved with dam construction projects in Sarawak by the Sarawak Energy Board while Malaysian timber giant Ta Ann has received major timber harvesting contracts in Tasmania.


Both businesses are linked through Hamed Sepawi, who is the chairman of Sarawak Energy Board and Ta Ann. He is also a cousin and close business associate of the state’s Chief Minister Abdul Taib Mahmud.


Clare Rewcastle Brown, the sister-in-law of former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, say there is a lack of accountability and transparency over the hydropower projects.


Environmentalists and political activists in Malaysia and Australia are calling for the ‘unhealthy’ business ties between Tasmania and Sarawak to be investigated and audited by an independent body.

The Malaysian government says the 20gigawatt project capacity can change the economic face of Sarawak and says its links with Hydro Tasmania are legitimate, while the companies involved deny any wrongdoing.

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Feds provide $100K grant for passenger rail study

Feds provide $100K grant for passenger rail study | Infrastructure |

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, August 16, 2012 

Federal railway officials are providing $100,000 to study the possibility of passenger train service linking Mobile, Montgomery and Birmingham.


The Federal Railroad Administration said Thursday it is earmarking the money in response to an application from the Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs.


Amtrak used to run passenger trains linking the three cities, and the study will look at restoring the service.


Amtrak's Crescent route runs through Birmingham as it connects New Orleans and New York, and the Amtrak Sunset Limited used to come through Mobile as it connected New Orleans and Florida.


Gulf Coast mayors and other leaders are discussing a future passenger train route between Mobile and Florida, and a Mobile-to-Birmingham leg through Montgomery could fit into those plans someday.

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The Bohol Standard Online Edition

The Bohol Standard Online Edition | Infrastructure |

September 9, 2012


The giant business conglomerate San Miguel Corporation (SMC) is keen on bidding for the Public Private Partnership (PPP scheme) to build the Panglao airport, now renamed as the New Bohol Airport project.


The company also signified to submit bid offers to other airport contracts in Palawan, Caraga, Tacloban and Dipolog, as reported by the business section of the Philippine Star.


The interest in Bohol came following President Noynoy Aquino’s “green light” to the P351-billion master plan for flood control management, that includes Panglao airport and other infrastructure works totaling Php407 billion for the period until 2035, the Philippine Daily Inquirer (PDI), in its Sept. 5, 2012 issue, also reported.


PDI said that New Bohol, Panglao Airport Development Project carries a hefty amount of Php7.4 billion. The report did not say, however, when the actual civil work will commence but the news story indicated that it’s expected “from 2012 to 2017” or about five years to complete it.


SMC president Ramon Ang, in the Philstar story, was quoted as saying that the company is still interested in taking part in the public bidding of the New Bohol airport under the PPP scheme. The company, which is co-owned by taipan Lucio Tan of the Philippine Airlines, is investing $300 million in constructing tourism facilities in Caticlan, the gateway to the world famous Boracay island beaches.

“What is more interesting in the New Bohol Airport project is that there are “more than 40 private investors that signified interest in the project,” Philstar reported.


The more than 200-hec. New Bohol airport project’s civil works will likely to start sometime next year and expected to be completed in 2015, Philstar added.


New Bohol Airport project, along with airports in Puerto Princesa, Palawan; Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental (to replace Cagayan de Oro’s Lumbia airport); and Daraga, Albay, are on top priority list due to its growing tourist arrivals.


The report cited that tourist’ arrivals in Bohol has grown tremendously to some 573,000 a year in recent count from only 198,000 about seven years back.


SMC has spent at least $3 billion since 2007 for its aggressive diversification into faster-growing sectors such as energy, telecoms, mining, banking, infrastructure and airlines, the report added.


Earlier, GT Capital Holdings, reportedly owned by Ty family, who are into banking, power generation as well, was also reported as eyeing to venture into infrastructure business as the government is expected to auction soon, some PPP projects.


It quoted the company’s president Carmelo Bautista as saying: “the Bohol airport seems to be very interesting play.” The company’s president said though his company may not be expert in infrastructure thus it needs a partner in this kind of venture, the report said.


It is also eyeing to supply power in this island-province, if needed, Bautista said.


The company’s sister, Global Business Power Corp, is said to be the leading independent power producer in the Visayas with a combined gross dependable capacity of about 627 megawatts, the report said.


“If we supply power to Bohol, imagine what kind of development multiplier you will have there, not just for tourism but also for commerce,” he added. (RVO)

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South Africa | CLIMATE CHANGE: New urgency to rethink dam projects

South Africa | CLIMATE CHANGE: New urgency to rethink dam projects | Infrastructure |
JOHANNESBURG, 26 September 2012


The massive hydropower dams built on the Zambezi River, the largest river system in Southern Africa, not only supply power to major economies in the region but also help mitigate annual floods. But as electricity demands grow and rising global temperatures affect rainfall patterns, the dams will be unable to meet energy needs or control floods, warns a new study.


The study, A Risky Climate for Southern African Hydro, was conducted for the NGO, International Rivers by Richard Beilfuss, a hydrologist and environmentalist who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison College of Engineering in the US and the University of Eduardo Mondlane in Mozambique. Beilfuss says the region - and the rest of Africa as well - must reconsider the construction of massive hydropower dams and rethink their use as a flood management tool, especially as floods are expected to worsen with climate change.


"Large dams are being built or proposed, typically without analysis of the risks from hydrological variability that are already a hallmark of African weather patterns, much less the medium- and long-term impacts expected from climate change," Beilfuss noted in the report. "Likewise, ecosystem services are rarely given much weight in the energy-planning process.”


Extreme floods expected


The report uses the Zambezi basin as a case study to inform governments planning to establish new hydropower plants.


Assessing climate change impact studies conducted on the Zambezi River Basin, Beilfuss said the Zambezi is expected to experience "drier and more prolonged drought periods". Over the next century, rainfall is expected to decrease by between 10 and 15 percent over the basin, according to several studies cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There will be a significant reduction in the amount of water flowing through the river system, affecting all eight countries it passes through. The water that feeds the river is expected to decrease by between 26 percent and 40 percent in another four decades, the study observed.


But when the rains do fall, they will be more intense, triggering more extreme floods.


No major dams are currently under construction on the Zambezi, Beilfuss told IRIN, but two large dams have been proposed: Batoka Dam on the Middle Zambezi and Mphanda Nkuwa Dam on the Lower Zambezi. “Batoka is politically and financially complex because it must be a joint project between Zambia and Zimbabwe,” Beilfus said. “Mphanda is entirely within Mozambique and is in very advanced stages of preparation with a timeline for construction."


There has been considerable opposition to Mphanda Nkuwa, which environmentalists warn could displace several thousand people. Much of the anxiety over its construction is fuelled by the experience of the Cahora Bassa Dam in Mozambique, which has been widely cited as an environmental catastrophe since its construction in the early 1970s by the former Portuguese colonial government. "None of these projects, current or proposed, has seriously incorporated considerations of climate change into project design or operation," noted Beilfuss.


Guido Van Langenhove, who heads Namibia’s Hydrological Services Department, agreed with the concerns raised by Beilfuss and said, "Our dams cannot handle one-in-a-hundred-year [extreme] flood events. They cannot handle the sheer volume of water that might be involved. We have to even consider how to fortify our existing structures."




Recent floods and their impact on the existing dams offer a possible view of future disasters. In 2007, heavy rains over the Zambezi threatened the dam structure, forcing the authorities to open the sluice gates of the Cahora Bassa Dam, affecting up to half a million people [some displaced, but others had crops destroyed etc ].


In a case study on the floods and cyclones that struck Mozambique that year, the Overseas Development Institute warned that the two biggest dams on the Zambezi, Cahora Bassa and Zambia’s Kariba, "do not have the spill-way capacity to cope with the very large floods that occur on the river every five to 10 years. At best, the dam operators can slow down the sudden rise in water levels by phasing the spillage of water over a period of a few days, which gives the people living downstream a little more time to evacuate their homes."


Hydrologists in Southern Africa have been calling for a reconsideration of dam planning for years. In 2001, Bryan Davies, an ecologist and a Zambezi river expert, conducted an assessment of the Cahora Bassa and told IRIN, "one of these days there will be a cyclonic event" that the full dams would be unable to cope with.


Part of the problem is that the Zambezi River Basin in Mozambique is a naturally occurring flood plain. In the past, human habitation patterns took flooding into account. When the waters subsided, people would move in to plant in the rich soils, and shift to higher ground when the floods returned, but since the construction of Cahora Bassa, communities have settled much closer to the river, making them more vulnerable, Davies warned.


Van Langenhove, the Namibian official, said people mistakenly believe that the construction of a dam means they will be safe from flooding, and so tend to settle close to dams. "Should an extreme event take place, there would be a huge disaster," he said.


Finding alternatives


Beilfuss suggested using hydropower dams to produce electricity only and not to store flood water. "Many hydropower projects are justified on the basis of providing flood control in addition to energy generation. However, allowing for flood storage means the reservoir must be drawn down to provide flood capture space at the very time that this water is most needed to supply energy".


The vast natural flood plains of the Zambezi should be allowed to flood while ensuring people do not settle in those areas, he said. "This will allow for regeneration of the floodplains systems for wildlife and fisheries and agriculture, and also will reduce the impact of extreme floods - which already occur in the basin as it is - on people and property.


"By removing people from flood-prone areas - in accordance with Mozambique and Zambia law, by the way - it becomes especially important to restore modest annual high flows in the basin so that people can secure their livelihoods from fisheries and agriculture," he told IRIN by email.


Beilfuss also suggested that countries in the region improve existing hydropower capacity rather than investing in new infrastructure. "Adding new or more efficient turbines is almost always much lower-impact than building new dams." Countries should also consider alternative sources of energy generation.

In 2011, the eight countries through which the Zambezi flows set up the Zambezi Watercourse Commission (ZAMCOM) to manage the river. Though still a new body, "ZAMCOM is a very important step forward for the integrated development and water conservation in the Zambezi River Basin,” Beifluss said. “In particular, the ZAMCOM structure offers the potential to strategically address river development, including hydropower, on a basin-wide level rather than a country-by-country level."


Américo José Ubisse, secretary general of the Mozambique Red Cross, has been involved in flood relief operations in Mozambique for many years. He told IRIN in an email that, in the past, issues related to the "environment, climate change and their future humanitarian consequences were deeply undermined... The added value that is coming with these scientific studies must been taken into consideration. Undermining [scientific studies]... can be a big mistake, not only for the future of economic investment but also for the future of humanitarian sustainability.”

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Écrit par David Ya | Vendredi, 07 Septembre 2012


Pays phare de l’Uemoa, la Côte d’Ivoire a décidé de ne pas se laisser prendre à défaut dans la mise en application du règlement 14 de l’Uemoa, signé et adopté le 16 décembre 2005 à Bamako par ses pays membres.


Cette directive est relative au respect de la limitation des normes communautaires du gabarit et du poids total roulant autorisés des véhicules lourds de transport de marchandises, et devrait entrer en vigueur depuis le 1er avril 2012.


L’objectif visé est de faire de la maintenance préventive des routes dans les pays membres en veillantà leur bon usage. Et, pour les spécialistes des infrastructures routières de l’Uemoa, cela passe par le contrôle et la répression des surcharges à l’essieu des véhicules poids lourds. En effet, les études montrent que les surcharges à l’essieu sont responsables à 80%, de la dégradation précoce des routes, selon le directeur général du Fer, Siadou Fofana.


C’est pourquoi, son conseil d’administration n’a pas hésité à dégager la somme d’un milliard de francs cfa, pour réhabiliter trois postes fixes de pesage à l’essieu et acquérir dix pèses essieux mobiles. Selon les explications de Fofana Siandou, pour se doter d’un réseau routier capable de soutenir son développement et atteindre son objectif de pays émergent à l’horizon


2020, la Côte d’Ivoire va devoir consacrer, annuellement, 5,5% de son produit intérieur brut (Pib), à l’entretien et à la construction de nouvelles infrastructures routières. Aussi, a-t-il exhorté les transporteurs dont les représentants étaient présents à la cérémonie, à s’approprier le combat pour le bon usage des routes. «Il faudrait qu’ensemble, nous prenions soin des routes dont nous bénéficions. J’attends beaucoup des syndicats des transporteurs et leur implication dans la sensibilisation des usagers de la route, afin qu’ils comprennent que ces infrastructures ont une vie, que si elle n’est pas entretenue, elle meurt. Alors, c’est l’investissement consenti qui est perdu », a-t-il indiqué.


Le directeur général du Fer a continué son plaidoyer, demandant à ceux qui volent les glissières de sécurité posées au bord des routes de mettre fin à ces actions. «Que les auteurs sachent que pour chaque casserole fabriquée avec ces glissières de sécurité, ce sont des vies qu’on perd », a-t-il soutenu.


A sa suite, Mabilon Maxim, directeur général d’Afrique pesage, la société qui a réhabilité le poste à pesage d’Anyama, s’est prononcé sur la qualité de cet ouvrage. «Cette station est dotée des dernières technologies de contrôle de poids à l’essieu », a-t-il précisé. Il a par ailleurs, révélé qu’avec ses dernières acquisitions, la Côte d’Ivoire rejoint le Sénégal dans le peloton de tête des pays qui possèdent les moyens techniques nécessaires pour mettre en oeuvre le règlement 14 de l’Uemoa. Toutefois le gouvernement ivoirien n’entend pas s’arrêter là, a assuré le représentant du ministre des infrastructures économiques, Patrick Achi.


«La surcharge est un cas de concurrence déloyale. Elle diminue la durée de vie des routes et engendre des coûts supplémentaires d’entretien. La réception de ce poste va permettre de réprimer ce délit et par ricochet protéger la route. Le gouvernement s’est engagé à réhabiliter les routes mais il faudra les préserver en évitant les surcharges », a déclaré

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US | Push Comes to Shove Over the Ohio River

US | Push Comes to Shove Over the Ohio River | Infrastructure |
Workers at the Milton-Madison Bridge are flexing muscles as crews prepare to slide a half-mile-long truss sideways over the Ohio River...


07/23/2012 By Tudor Van Hampton


Murray Johnson had performed this sort of heavy lifting before, but the previous feat was just a warm-up. This time, the executive engineer for North Vancouver, British Columbia-based Buckland & Taylor Ltd. is shooting for a world record. He and his colleagues believe that the Milton-Madison Bridge, now being built over the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana, would involve the biggest truss slide in history.

"We have specialized over the years in many crazy—I mean high-end—erection schemes. From that point of view, we have confidence," says Johnson. As he and I talked over the phone in early July, Johnson was being careful not to overstate the riskiness of sliding an approximately 2,400-ft-long truss. But after some gentle nudging, he soon admitted that the job was "definitely interesting and exciting and a little bit scary when push comes to shove and you actually lift this over the river."


Procedurally, the Milton-Madison Bridge is a repeat of an earlier slide but much larger in scale. Johnson designed the earlier scoot to facilitate replacement of the old Capilano River Bridge in West Vancouver. In June 2010, he watched as workers there used hydraulic jacks and threaded bars to yank the 430-ft-long, 1,280-ton, two-span truss an average of 43 ft laterally in relative silence. Riding on Teflon pads and polished metal plates, it slid onto a temporary pier in only six hours and instantly became a detour to make way for construction of a new crossing. At Milton-Madison, the contractor is building the new bridge on temporary piers next to the old one. Traffic will switch to the new bridge while workers demolish the old one. Then, the new bridge will slide sideways on a steel runway 55 ft and land on the original piers, which are being refurbished under live traffic.


For some civil engineers, bridge-sliding is old hat. It complements one of the industry's latest fashion trends—prefabrication and modular building—and cuts down on service interruptions. But Capilano also served as an unusual example of applying the method to an octogenarian erector set. Rather than moving steel behemoths, engineers prefer to use the graceful technique for small highway overpasses, railroad crossings and other nimble structures that consist of simple beams and girders. New bridges that must keep their old alignment—such as urban links where space is limited—also make good sliders, engineers say.


Milton-Madison is no urban bridge, but the 1929-vintage truss does connect two historic small towns—Milton, Ky., and Madison, Ind., whose residents needed a modern structure but wanted the look and feel of the original. At 44 ft, the new bridge will be twice as wide—still retaining one lane in each direction but with shoulder and pedestrian access. The supporting caissons originally were hand dug down 80 ft to bedrock and are being heavily reinforced with bundled rebar and grout, as well as 2- to 6-in.-thick encapsulating concrete jackets and new pier caps.


The slide idea, scaled up to fit a bridge that would be nearly six times longer and 12 times heavier than Capilano, took some by surprise. When the project went out to bid as a design-build contract in the summer of 2010, around the same time as the Capilano move, "I don't think this whole sliding idea was on anybody's radar screen," says Tom Bolte, project manager for Columbus, Ohio-based Burgess & Niple Inc., the engineer-of-record for the Ohio River crossing. "It's not totally new, but it has not been done to our knowledge for a bridge of this size."


The winning bid, led by the Crown Point, Ind., office of Walsh Construction Co., reflected just how fresh the idea was. Engineers for the owners—Indiana Dept. of Transportation and Kentucky Transportation Cabinet—originally estimated that replacing the 83-year-old bridge would cost taxpayers $130 million and require a continuous year of traffic shutdown. The bridge serves approximately 12,000 vehicles a day with no alternative over a 72-mile stretch of the Ohio River, so the owners also expected the yearlong shutdown would require expensive and cumbersome ferries to shuttle people and their cars across the river. That plan came with a touch of irony, as the original bridge was built to replace overstressed ferries in the 1920s.


The bid was structured as an "A+B" equation in which one half of the formula would represent the contractor's hard-dollar price and the other a $25,000 assessment the owners would charge for each day the bridge was closed to traffic (for a maximum of 365 days, or roughly $9.1 million). The Walsh team—with Burgess & Niple designing the approaches and pier rehabilitation and Buckland & Taylor taking care of the design and construction engineering of the steel spans—proposed doing the job for just $103.7 million while shutting down the bridge for only 10 days. The contractor estimated five days to reroute traffic onto the new bridge, built in place using a combination of truss prefabrication, floating, strand-jack lifting and cantilevered "stick" construction on temporary steel piers. The job would take five more days to slide the roughly half-mile truss onto the permanent piers.


Four other bidders proposed traditional in-situ construction and didn't put a dent in the 365-day traffic shutdown. Prefabricating the new bridge and sliding it into position "thrilled" the owners' representatives, says Kevin Hetrick, project manager at INDOT's central office in Indianapolis. "The state of Indiana has a lot of projects in the queue, and this just allows another project or two to be built," he explains. Looking just at the hard numbers, Walsh was technically the second-lowest bidder, but the huge time difference allowed it to jump to the front of the line.


From a profit standpoint, Walsh could justify the bold move, its engineers say. "We looked at the value of all our temporary falseworks and appurtenances required to do the slide, and it was pretty close to equal the value of those B days. So, we could be competitive with this plan," explains Brad Koester, business group leader in Walsh's Crown Point office. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels hailed the solution as "a great example of innovation that makes a great outcome even better."


Building the new bridge, so far, has come with its own unique challenges. Heavy snow melt and rain last year, which caused the river to rise 35 ft above its normal level, effectively shut down the project for six months. "At one point, the water reached flood stage and crested," says Hetrick. "It was pretty much up to the door of the field trailers." The slide, which was originally scheduled for this September, has been pushed back to next April.


The pier strengthening also turned out to be a hassle. The owner relied on as-built plans, which were elusive at times, to plot out the submerged caissons. Extra core samples were required, and workers struggled to drill through the decades-old layers of concrete, lumber and other debris left behind from the old hand-dug pneumatic foundations. Finally, before installing and grouting bundled steel bars, workers drilled about 40 holes in each of the bridge's main piers, 4 to 5 in. in dia and extending about 55 to 70 ft deep, to make room for the reinforcement. "We are all glad to be above that point at this time," says Hetrick. "It's tough construction when you are down there."

This year the project also faced a safety-related setback when an ironworker was found unconscious in April pinned between the bucket of an aerial lift and a steel beam he was welding. He later died. The Indiana Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating the accident.


Weighing 15,260 tons, the Milton-Madison superstructure, which will measure 2,430 ft along its four-span truss and will extend 3,181 ft, including the approaches, is set to make use of eight 364-ton-capacity strand jacks supplied by Switzerland-based post-tensioning supplier VSL International Ltd. Operated by Walsh's craftworkers, the jacks on June 29 hauled up a 600-ft-long, 1,776-ton span that was prefabricated and floated into position prior to the lift. In August, Walsh plans to repeat the 80-ft-high maneuver for a 727-ft-long span weighing 2,000 tons.

With those two center spans clear of the main navigation channel and out of the way of busy barge traffic, Walsh plans to erect the end spans, measuring 500 ft and 600 ft, in cantilever.


Early next year, traffic will be rerouted to the new bridge, which will bear on temporary piers made from 36-in.-dia steel pipe piles. After the old bridge is gone, the new bridge will be ready for the big slide upstream—20 in. at a time—using the eight strand jacks and 9-ft-deep, 125-ton sliding girders previously acting as temporary pier caps.


How long should the slide take? It will be slow and deliberate but much faster than a year of downtime. Johnson says, "We are planning to do it in a shift."


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