Works to construct the Olal Airport in North Ambrym will commence shortly.

Philip Firiam of Neomae Diggers & Construction, a local contractor who was awarded the tender to undertake these works, made the confirmation when he formally signed his contract with Prime Minister Charlot Salwai on Tuesday this week.

He said in two weeks’ time, he would start mobilising materials and equipment to the site so works could kick off.

Signing of behalf of the Minister of Infrastructure and Public Utilities, PM Salwai congratulated the contractor and said they are looking forward to the completion of the airport, adding the people of North Ambrym have been waiting for this service for many years.

Mr Salwai also expressed his disappointment at how the project had been handled and delayed. He said it is “unfortunate” that it took too long to realise the project, especially when funding towards the project had been passed in Parliament last year.

The project’s initial total estimated cost is Vt252 million. Unfortunately, with limited fund, the first phase of the project which will be based on an available budget of Vt38, 419, 948. This will cover earthworks, including clearing of land, reshaping of runway. The main objective of the project’s first stage is to complete the project and allow Air Vanuatu to commence its operations to the area.

This airstrip will a be Category C airport which will cater for aircrafts such Twin Otter and Islander.

Public Works Department acknowledged the surrounding communities for their engagement in this airport project. The communities have cooperated with relevant authorities who were on the project site and this has shown good working partnership between the government and the communities.

Junior Shim George from MIPU stressed that once there is an available additional funding, the airstrip would be completed to meet the Civil Aviation Authority Vanuatu (CAAV) Standard requirements. He said works should take roughly six months to complete and a test flight to the airport is planned for the second quarter of 2020.

Minister of Climate Change, Bruno Leingkon, who is also Member of Parliament of Ambrym Constituency has conveyed his heartfelt gratitude to the government on behalf of his people for finally making their longtime cry a reality. He referred to the contract signing as a “breakthrough” for the people of Ambrym.

Being one of the people who had been instrumental about this project, Minister Leingkon agreed that this is their biggest transportation challenge and it has affected access to better education and health.

He said people from Northern end of Ambrym had to spend approximately Vt12, 000 to Vt14, 000 to get to Craig Cove Airport or even travel by boat to Lonorore on Pentecost to access Lonorore Airport, this is time-consuming and expensive.

Mr Leingkon said the people are eager to see works progress and the chiefs and landowners welcomed the project and have prepared to ensure there are no disruptions so works are carried out smoothly.

He specifically thanked the former Minister of MIPU, Jotham Napat, current Minister, Christophe Emelee, the Prime Minister and all who have contributed towards this cause.

Between 1994 and 1995, the Public Works Department launched works there. However, land dispute issues halted the project. In 2014, the communities and chiefs finally gave their consent to go ahead with the construction of the new airstrip. A supplementary budget was then approved by the Council of Ministers (CoM) towards the Olal Airport project.

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