When the General Santos International Airport became fully operational back in 1996, it was touted as (and still is) the largest airport in the Philippine island of Mindanao, and the necessary step towards accelerating General Santos City’s urban development. The GSIA replaced (and inherited the IATA code of) the original smaller airport in Barangay Buayan (now the Rajah Buayan Air Station of the Philippine Air Force), and since then has catered to domestic flights from the national carrier Philippine Airlines, as well as Air Philippines (now PAL Express) and Cebu Pacific. It’s been two decades since then, and it’s plain to see for visitors that the complex has been seeing better days. The news that something is finally being done about the wear and tear was most welcome indeed.
Business World Online reports that a full-scale rehabilitation project was being undertaken starting last March for the entirety of the General Santos City Airport Industrial Complex, the land area encompassing the GSIA (GES). With a generous starting budget of P959 million, the initiative will begin with some long-overdue overhauls and sprucing up of the original terminal structure and the now-too small parking area. This initial step will move towards the completion of a new face for the GSIA, the Aerotropolis. This revamped airport complex will convert a 200 hectare area around the airport proper into space for hotel accommodations, business centers, an amusement park or two, a massive food court housing major franchises, a shopping mall, and even establishments for manufacturing and food processing.
Ginalyn C. Cachuela, manager of the Soccsksargen Area Development Project Office, told Business World in an interview, “We expect construction to start hopefully by March 2016. (The) bidding process has been extended this February so it is still ongoing.” She also adds that the Philippine Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) is prepared to carry out the improvements to the terminal building, estimated to be completed in two years.
SOCCSKSARGEN (pronounced “Sock-Sar-Gen”), also known as Region 12, is comprised of the provinces of South Cotabato, (North) Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, and Sarangani, along with the independently administered cities of Cotabato and General Santos. When completed, the Aerotropolis complex will integrate the different transportation points of entry in SOCCSKSARGEN, that is, the GSIA (GES), the General Santos Fish Port, and Makar Wharf.
The planned expansions couldn’t have come at a better time according to Ms. Cachuela, who notes that ever since 1996 passenger traffic at GSIA (GES) has had an annual increase rate of 14.03%. Cargo traffic meanwhile has also grown at 20.82%