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CEZA mulls building new airport inside Cagayan economic zone

GMA News

The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA) is planning to build a multi-million dollar airport inside the free port area itself in a bid to attract more investors and realize the establishment of a so-called “Crypto Valley of Asia.”

“We are studying the possibility of constructing a new airport inside the zone itself, so that is also on the table in order to realize this so-called ‘Crypto Valley of Asia’ concept that we have embarked,” CEZA administrator and CEO Raul Lambino told GMA News Online in a chance interview.

In 2017, the CEZA launched its “Crypto Valley of Asia” initiative in an effort to provide a stable and safe region for blockchain developers and cryptocurrency exchange operators to domicile their back office support infrastructure.

The free port area currently has 25 financial technology principal licensees from Asia and Europe.

Investors, however, have concerns on how to get to the eco-zone as fast as possible since the nearest airport, the Cagayan North International Airport in Lal-lo town, is 80 kilometers away.

“While we have already an airport in Lal-lo that’s almost still 80 kilometers away [from the ecozone], unless we construct an expressway we would not be able to address the concern of investors who would want to come to the zone as quick as possible because 80 kilometers is still 80 kilometers,” he said.

“(With) the usual kind of road that we have, it will take them one and a half hours before they can reach the zone and that’s too far for them,” he added.

The CEZA is now in talks with the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), “who has the primary jurisdiction to license new airports that are going to operate in the country.”

“We hope we will be able to realize this in the next three years,” Lambino said, noting that the cost of the project will be roughly between $60 million and $80 million.

“The masterplan and the feasibility study are now being undertaken by a US company in collaboration with some of their local partners here. I think the Palafox group is the one being tapped by this company from the US to help in the masterplanning and feasibility study,” he said.

The idea of building an airport inside CEZA’s free port area was conceptualized six months ago, according to the CEZA chief.

Lambino said putting up a new airport is more practical and faster to implement than to construct an expressway connecting Lal-lo airport to the eco-zone.

“We made our calculations. For us to construct an expressway, we would be somehow spending about P10 to P12 billion, excluding right of way issues,” he said.

“The acquisition of right of way will take years we will not be able to finish that in five years. So it is more practical and more doable to construct a new airport with less cost and less time than to construct a new expressway that will connect Lal-lo to the zone… So ‘yun ang primary consideration,” he noted.

The CEZA is a government-owned and controlled corporation created by the Republic Act 7922 or the Cagayan Special Economic Zone Act of 1995.

The “Crypto Valley of Asia” is a joint initiative by CEZA and private developer Northern Star Gaming & Resorts Inc. It is a planned development estate designed to be an investment location for financial technology companies and generate employment in the business process outsourcing sector which will service global fintech and cryptocurrency operators. —KG, GMA News

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