Davao Oriental

Davao Oriental eyes maiden flight at Mati Airport in early 2023

Ferdinand Zuasola
Davao Oriental eyes maiden flight at Mati Airport in early 2023

Facade of the newly refurbished Passenger Terminal Building of the Mati City Airport before the government paid the land owners.

Local officials work on opening domestic routes to Mati City from Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City, and vice versa

DAVAO ORIENTAL, Philippines – Davao Oriental officials have started talks with national flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) to launch commercial flights in the province as they prepare to open the mothballed Mati Airport in early 2023.

Davao Oriental Governor Corazon Malanyaon on Thursday, November 4, said she and Mati City Mayor Michelle Nakpil-Rabat had initial talks with PAL senior assistant vice president Harry Inoferio about the possibility of the Mati Airport’s inclusion in the airline’s list of Mindanao routes.

She said they were joined by officials of the Department of Transportation (DOTr), the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), and major tour operators in the country during the meeting on Saturday, October 29.

For starters, local officials were working on opening domestic routes from Manila, Cebu City, and Davao City, and vice versa, according to Karen Lou Deloso, spokesperson of the Davao provincial capitol.

The airport, however, can only accommodate at this time 50- to 80-seat aircraft, C-130 planes, and lighter aircraft with its 1.5-kilometer runway, said Mati Airport officer-in-charge Sean Hannibal Jabile.

“It’s a community airport,” Jabile said.

The Mati Airport, once operational, would do away with about five hours of travel just to catch commercial flights at the nearest airport in Davao City. 

On June 28, just two days before then-president Rodrigo Duterte stepped down, the DOTr paid members of the Rabat and Rocamora families – an influential clan in Mati and Davao Oriental – P174 million, ending their years of land ownership claims over the estate on which the airport was built.

Originally named Imelda Romualdez Marcos Airport after the former first lady who had it built in the 1970s, it stood idle for about five decades. It could not be used for commercial flights because it was constructed on private property.

Aside from the P174-million payment, the government shelled out P23.9 million for administrative costs and transfer fees.

Malanyaon said she and other local officials were working on Mati Airport’ maiden commercial flight in time for a scaled-up tourism campaign for Davao Oriental in 2023.

She said there was a need to further develop and expand the airport but since the undertaking would take time to complete, local officials would settle for smaller aircraft for now.

The planned opening of commercial routes, she said, would give the local tourism and economy an “enormous momentum.” – Rappler.com

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