For the first time, a 50-seater commercial plane flew from Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) to Bantayan Island Airport in Sta. Fe town Friday, November 27 to mark a promotional stint on the island’s readiness for travel in the new normal.
A water cannon salute welcomed the inaugural flight of the 50-seater Fokker plane which flew in around a hundred guests to the "Santa Fe-Madridejos-Bantayan (SMB) Escapade" with Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque topping the list of honored guests.
The other planes which transported bloggers and social media influencers, as well as members of mainstream media, are 30-seater Cessnas which have already been operating in the area for charter flights.
MCIA Authority General Manager Steve Dicdican made it clear that the event is intended to show that plane travel can be done as we face Covid-19 squarely.
"Ako lang klarohon nga dili ni siya soft opening and that we are not yet opening in December. We still have to complete works for the facility. Right now, we are 90 percent done,” he said.
“The event is to market travel, market the new tourism normal, which can be done with a scaled model, curated, controlled, and integrated," he added.
Governor Gwendolyn Garcia said that the "significance of the moment cannot be overemphasized."
"Finally, a vision has been implemented. A dream has come true," she said, referring to the dream of former Cebu Governor Emilio Mario "Lito" Osmeña.
"When something is meant to be, the right people are put together at the right time for the right reason," Garcia underscored.
In 1989, the Province of Cebu through then Governor Osmeña purchased thirty three lots to be utilized as runway of Santa Fe Airport which was referred to as Plan A.
When airport authorities from the national government conducted an ocular inspection, it was found out that the land purchased by the Province of Cebu was not suitable for a runway.
In 1990, as advised by the national government airport authorities, the Province of Cebu again purchased the nearby land suitable for an airport runway, then marked as Plan B.)
In 2012, Deed of Exchange for 15 lots were executed and signed by Garcia in favor of the affected lot owners in Plan B which were not included in the 1990 purchase.
Purchased lots have an area of 373,403 square meters while the 15 lots exchanged reached 112,718 square meters.
Dicdican recalled how reluctant he was at the time he presented the project proposal to Garcia.
"Gikulbaan ko pag-presentar nako kay hesitant ko ato, but akong nakita kon unsa ka-excited si Gov sa proposal," he said.
Roque congratulated the Province of Cebu for the milestone, saying "napakaswerte ng Cebu sa pagkakaroon ng pinakamagaling na gobernador sa buong Pilipinas."
"Tingnan nyo naman ang nagawa ni Governor Garcia sa loob lang ng isa at kalahating taon ng kanyang panunungkulan," he added.
Madridejos Mayor Salvador "Sally" de la Fuente said the development excites Lawisanons (referring to the town people, after the place's old name which is Lawis).
"We used to travel five hours from the city to get home to Madridejos - three hours by bus, one hour and twenty minutes by boat, and forty minutes from Santa Fe. But now we have a better option to get here as fast as we could," he said.
Debra Pacifico Mansueto, a teacher at the Madridejos National High School and a native Lawisanon, is thankful that the airport is ready to serve as soon as project works are completed.
"Dako kaayo ni nga tabang. Magpasalamat ko ni Gov Gwen nga natuman na ni. Bisan naa ta sa pandemya pero projects such as these makapalambo man sa ekonomiya sa among lugar. Maka-excite," she said.
Also present during the inaugural ceremony are Mayors Ithamar Espinosa of Santa Fe and Bantayan Mayor Arthur Despi who took turns in thanking the governor; Department of Tourism Shahlimar Hofer Tamano, Office of the Presidential Assistant in the Visayas Secretary Michael Dino, 4th District Provincial Board Member Kerrie Keane Shimura, 5th District PB Member Andrei Duterte who chairs the PB Committee on Tourism, GMR Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation Chief Executive Advisor Andrew Harrison, Japanese Consul Hiroshi Watanabe, beauty queen Gazini Ganados, and Bb. Pilipinas 2020 candidates, among others. (Eleanor Valeros)