The Prime Minister, Charlot Salwai, has appealed for no more delays to the work to extend and widen Vanuatu’s main gateway, Bauerfield International Airport, in Port Vila.

He called on all government machinery to cooperate and facilitate the quick and smooth progress of the rehabilitation work.

And that there had been enough delays already since the government gave the undertaking for the project 18 months ago.

Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of Lot One of the Vanuatu Airport Infrastructure Project (VAIP) Rehabilitation Project, which is the lengthening and widening of Bauerfield at the airport’s VIP Lounge Wednesday, the Prime Minister said there was no more time to waste on the Vt6 billion project funded by the World Bank.

“The decision for VAIP rehabilitation project was the first decision of the first Council of Ministers’ meeting of the new government that I am leading when it came into power in February, 2016.

“It has taken this long to take us this far, and I am appealing to all government departments and entities concerned with the project to work together and ensure there are no more delays due to any government facilitation process.

“But to allow the project to progress and completed so we can start enjoying its benefits,” he said.

He said the support of everyone for the progress of the project will enable the project to be completed on time and everyone can gather again at the same spot to take possession of the new airport and associated facilities this time next year.

The Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, Jotham Napat, said the work being undertaken by contractors, CCECC of China and their joint venture Northwest Civil Aviation Airport Construction group JV, will upgrade Bauerfield to a Code E airport capable of handling long haul flights using the Boeing 787 aircraft or the Airbus A330 plane.

He added that following the VAIP Lot 1 project, the contractors will carry out the Lot 2 part of VAIP, which will be to lengthen and widen the two other gateways to Vanuatu, Pekoa Airport on Santo and Whitegrass Airport on Tanna.

The President of China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) Mr. Zhao Dian Long, who traveled here for the occasion, assured the Prime Minister, the Government of Vanuatu and everyone in the country that his company would deliver on its promise to complete the airport upgrades and handover the airport on time.

Last week, the contractor kick-started construction work when they signed the agreement for 340 days to complete the rehabilitation work on the Bauerfield runway.

Before the speech took place and the groundbreaking ceremony on the green next to the airport apron, the Prime Minister performed a traditional acknowledgement of the Chiefs of lfira and Mele, Chief Paunimanu Mantoi Kalsakau III and Chief Simeon Poilapa and a representative of Chief Masai respectively, and the landowners of the Bauerfield Airport. Before he presented gifts of pigs, root crops and kava, he thanked them for agreeing to let the Government use their land to upgrade Bauerfield airport.

Mr Salawi added that without their agreement, the project would not be possible.

Dignitaries at the ceremony Wednesday included representatives of the World Bank.

Jonas Cullwick, a former General Manager of VBTC is now a Senior Journalist with the Daily Post. Contact: jonas@dailypost.vu. Cell # 678 5460922

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