Koreans to build airport in island next to Boracay

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — BORACAY Island, Aklan—A Korean real estate company will start the construction next month of an international airport at Carabao Island, which is being eyed as the “Next Boracay.” Carabao Island, part of San Jose town south of Romblon, is a 15-minute boat ride from the smaller island of Boracay, and has the same white-sand beaches and pristine waters, according to Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano. Durano said Carabao Island is about four times the size of the 10-sq. km. Boracay, which accommodated more than half a million visitors last year. It is closest to the Puka Beach, the northern part of Boracay. 

“We expect the groundbreaking of the airport at Carabao Island by the end of the month,” said Durano, who, together with Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr., visited the new large hotel developments in Boracay. Durano said the San Jose airport, which will have a 4,000-meter runway, is part of the tourism masterplan being developed by Euro Asia & Group Holding, a Korean company headed by Byoung-Youn Park. 

Korean tourists, representing two-thirds of total foreign guests in Boracay, numbered 124,618 in 2006. In the first four months of 2007, foreign visitors were up 40 percent. Portions of Carabao Island, Durano said, had already been leased out to the Korean company, which committed to put up the necessary infrastructures before establishing commercial establishments. 

“Everything is being planned in Carabao Island,” he said. “It will have the same model as Mactan in Cebu.” The tourism chief said the development of Carabao Island will relieve Boracay of too much pressure from tourists, in the wake of constant power outages caused by peak demand from more than 250 resorts and hotels on the island. Most resorts here have their power generation sets ready in case of brownouts. Ma. Victoria Jasmin, director of the Office of Tourism Standards, which is in charge of endorsing tourism projects for fiscal incentives, said the Korean company was applying for the declaration of the entire Carabao Island as a tourism economic zone. The problem, she said, is that the island already has a thriving local population who own pieces of land in five barangays. San Jose town, which encompasses the whole Carabao Island, has about 10,000 residents. 

“Their masterplan involves integrated resort development which will include construction of hotels, resorts and retirement villages,” Jasmin said. She said the original plan aimed to build an international airport in San Jose capable of handling large Airbus or Boeing planes that will bring passengers to Boracay. But under the Korean masterplan, Carabao Island will now be the major attraction, with Boracay as the day-two destination. 

Caticlan airport, which is about a 10-minute boat ride from Boracay, can handle only small turboprop planes, while it takes another two hours to reach Kalibo airport by land. Asked how much the Korean group would invest, Jasmin said there were no official figures yet, but the amount is expected to be big, considering the extent of development it plans.