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Bacolod City, PhilippinesFriday, August 17, 2007
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Solon, VM vow to
pursue Sipalay airport

Rep. Genaro Alvarez Jr, (6th district Negros Occ) and Vice-Mayor Oscar Montilla yesterday vowed to pursue the establishment of an airport in Sipalay City, to boost tourism in southern Negros, despite some hitches.

The city government of Sipalay has filed a case of expropriation of the Maricalum Mining Corp. airstrip in Brgy. San Jose, Sipalay, after the management refused to allow its temporary use by the local government unit.

Alvarez said he and the city government of Sipalay will share the cost of development of the 1.3- kilometer MMC airstrip in Brgy. San Jose, Sipalay City.

Montilla said they are also eyeing the Philex Gold airstrip in Brgy. Manlocahoc, Sipalay City, as an alternative site for an airport in southern Negros.

MMC, that stopped operations in 2000 due to labor problems and losses, still owes P50 million in taxes to the city government of Sipalay.

Montilla said the city government of Sipalay is willing to offset the unpaid taxes of MMC with the leasing of the airstrip.

Alvarez said he will talk next week with the MMC management about the plans of the Sipalay City government to lease the airstrip. If the talks fail, Alvarez said he will bring the Air Transportation Office staff to Sipalay in September, to inspect proposed airport projects in southern Negros. On the other hand, if the negotiations with MMC turn out to be fruitful, Montilla said they hope to open the airport in the summer season next year.

Montilla said he will also encourage small airliners to operate in Sipalay City, and to have with direct flights from Palawan, Caticlan, Iloilo, Bacolod, and other tourist destinations in Cebu, Dumaguete and Bohol.

The city of Sipalay, Cauayan and Hinobaan are known for their white sand beaches and diving sites.

Montilla said they have noted the increasing number of foreign tourist arrivals in Sipalay City, since 2005. Sipalay has eight beach and diving resorts, seven of them owned by foreigners.

Alvarez, who is also a pilot, said the MMC airstrip in Sipalay City can accommodate propeller-driven planes and other light aircrafts.*GPB

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