TAWI-TAWI, the Philippine’s southernmost province and major seaweed producer, is getting a major boost in transport access with the start of local flight services this week and the recent groundbreaking for two bridge projects.
Flag-carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) will start its twice a week flights between Tawi-Tawi and Cotabato City, the regional center of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), on June 9.
Secretary Maria Belen Acosta, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA), said this first air service within the Bangsamoro opens economic and tourism opportunities for Tawi-Tawi and the region as a whole.
“We commend the BARMM government and Philippine Airlines for this connectivity development, which will boost tourism and economic exchanges within and outside of BARMM, the country’s 2nd fastest-growing region in 2021,” said Ms. Acosta, who recently visited the province.
PAL Area Head for Mindanao Sales and Services Reyani R. Romano said the inclusion of Tawi-Tawi in their flight network provides an opportunity to promote the largely undiscovered islands
“The (Cotabato-Tawi-Tawi) route will help introduce BARMM, especially since not many people, even myself, are familiar with the region. So the air route can be an opportunity for people to see the touristic opportunities vis-à-vis these places,” Ms. Romano said during last week’s Habi at Kape media forum at the Abreeza Mall.
“This will be an opportunity for us to help promote the attractions in Tawi-Tawi and Cotabato,” she said.
Ms. Romano said the opening of the new air service to and from Tawi-Tawi’s Sanga-Sanga Airport will also help improve commerce.
“To help them in economics and commerce because I understand in Tawi-Tawi it’s more on marine products that they can sell or extend to other regions or in the mainland (Mindanao),” she said.
A bill was filed last year by Bangsamoro Parliament Member Amir S. Mawallil for strengthening the seaweed industry, with Tawi-Tawi as the hub and host of a proposed Bangsamoro Seaweed Industry Development Authority (SIDA).
The province’s seaweed industry has been a recipient of various foreign-assisted development projects, including a solar energy facility funded by the European Union Access to Sustainable Energy or EU-ASEP and the World Bank’s Philippine Rural Development Project.
Meanwhile, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) officially launched on Friday the construction of two bridges that will connect Tawi-Tawi’s capital Bongao to the growth centers of Sanga-Sanga Island and Panglima Sugala.
The two bridges with a combined cost of P2.14 billion are part of the Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project, said DPWH Acting Secretary Roger G. Mercado
“The team of Undersecretary (Emil K.) Sadain and Project Director Sharif Madsmo H. Hasim have been working really hard for these projects for years now from the conduct of feasibility studies, loan agreement, detailed engineering design, and procurement for civil works contractor and consultant”, Mr. Mercado said during the launching ceremony.
The bridges, he said, “will open up potential in the tourism and fishing industry for Tawi-Tawi.”
Mr. Sadain said there is also a plan for the development of the Malassa International Port in the province, “as it is in the path of international shipping containers.” — Maya M. Padillo and Marifi S. Jara