By Recto Mercene, Manila Bulletin
This is an appeal to my esteemed kababayan, the honorable Governor Carmencita Ongsiaco Reyes of Marinduque. Please allow a contractor to continue with the concrete paving of the remaining portion of the Marinduque Airport runway so that business would flourish and tourism would boom in our beloved province.
It has come to my attention that Melchor Go, reportedly her godson and contractor, has been a pain in the neck, having fought her for the governorship twice in the past, and she twice defeated him.
As a sort of punishment, Reyes would not issue a permit for Go to source his sand and gravel to build the central part of the runway, about 300 meters of unpaved portion. The aggregate could be found in the nearby Libtangin River, about half a kilometer away.
Go was three-term board member of the First District of Boac, Marinduque’s capital, for three consecutive years. In 2011, he ran for governor against Reyes and lost. In 2016, Go ran again against Reyes for provincial governor but lost.
A resident of Boac, Go has a construction company that won the bidding to concrete the last part of the upgrading of the Marinduque Airport.
Work on the runway approach near the sea, which was given to another contractor had been finished, including the other end of the runway, which is near the river.
Since the upgrading started in 2013, Marinduque Airport has been closed to operations. Before that, turbo-prop airplanes used to fly to Manila and the Marinduque Airport. Philippine Airlines, Zest Air, and Cebu Pacific field their respective turbo-prop airplanes to serve the 240,000 residents of the island. Flights would have resumed this year had Go’s project, which consists of concreting the central part of the runway, was able to proceed.
Air service is a vital link of Marinduque’s businessmen to Manila, while tourists usually come in droves to watch and participate in the famed Moriones Festival during the Lenten season.
The island has a 6-star Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa, which opened in 2008. It is an exclusive resort, which draws tourists from Japan, Taiwan, and elsewhere.
Tourists from Japan, Taiwan, and elsewhere have been enticed to visit Marinduque by flying them in via the Marinduque Airport.
With the airport closed, 6-star Bellarocca Island Resort and Spa’s business has suffered and has reportedly closed, waiting for the airport to resume business.
When the sea is rough, or when Signal No. 1 is raised covering Marinduque and nearby island provinces, the roll-on-roll-off (Roro) services are grounded for several days.
Even when the weather is pleasant, the Roro service between Dalahican Port in Lucena and Balanacan Port in Mogpog town takes three hours, closing the 51 kilometer distance between ports.
And if the residents are from Gasan or Buenavista, it could take them about four hours by Roro to reach Cawit Port, the last town of Boac before Gasan. This is not counting the close to 4 to 6 hours or travelling by bus or car for passengers originating in Metro Manila.
Those who have braved the trip by land and sea said it takes between 8 to ten hours to reach Balanacan in Mogpog, or Cawit Port, in Gasan, from the bus terminal in Pasay City.
In contrast, a turbo-prop aircraft like Zest Air, Cebu Pacific, and Philippine Airlines (PAL), taking off at the Manila Domestic Terminal, would cover the distance in under one hour.
This could be reduced to 30 minutes if Philippine Airlines is able to field one of its passenger jets once the runway upgrade is finished.
Carmencita Ongsiaco Reyes was elected to the Interim Batasang Pambansa in 1978, when President Marcos created the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan party, to filter out the Liberals and Nacionalista members loyal to him. That marked the beginning of the Reyes dynasty. Her husband, Edmundo Reyes, was appointed Immigration Commissioner, at the heyday of martial law.
The Ongsiaco’s are old money and related to the Cory Cojuangco Aquino clan.
Today, the island-province residents hope that in the autumn of her life, Governor Reyes, 90, would find it in her heart to approve the protracted contract for the benefit of her constituents.
She has served the Marinduquenos well for decades and her stamp of approval to allow the opening of the Marinduque runway would be her lasting legacy.
About the Author: Recto L. Mercene, graduate BS Journalism, Lyceum of the Philippines. First prize winner, News Photojournalism, by Confederation of Asean Journalists, Bangkok, Thailand; second prize winner, Art and Photojournalism Award; San Miguel Corporation. Former Air Traffic Controller and private pilot. Colombo scholarship grantee: Hurn College of Air Traffic Control, Bournemouth, United Kingdom.