The Philippines Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) has awarded a $82.9m contract to a joint venture (JV) to upgrade Palawan’s Puerto Princesa International Airport.

Formed between South Korean firms Kumho Industrial and GS Engineering & Construction (Kumho-GS), the JV won the design-and-build deal to improve the airport and plans to begin the design component by the third quarter of 2014, while the construction of civil works at the site are scheduled to start by the fourth quarter.

"The new airport is expected to have an annual capacity of approximately two million passengers upon completion."

The new airport is expected to have an annual capacity of approximately two million passengers upon completion, which is significantly higher than its current terminal capacity of 350,000 travellers a year.

The project involves the construction of a new passenger terminal building, cargo terminal building, apron, connecting taxiways, a new air navigation system and other support facilities.

DoTC transportation secretary Joseph Abaya said: "The eco-tourism showcase that is Puerto Princesa, as well as the rest of Palawan, will soon have a modern, world-class airport that we can be as proud of as the destination itself.

"With beaches and other natural wonders attracting throngs of visitors from all over the globe, it will finally have a gateway that is befitting of its stature."

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Kumho-GS will take an estimated 30 months to complete the project, and the new airport is expected to be fully operational by early 2017.

The project is being funded through a $71.61m loan from Korean Export Import Bank (KEXIM) that is payable in 40 years, at a concessional interest rate of 0.1% per annum.

According to DoTC, the airport is expected to not only boost the region’s tourism sector but also generate a total of 1,400 new jobs during construction.

Puerto Princesa Airport serves as the gateway to Palawan and the Puerto Princesa Underground River, which is expected to attract 1.2 million tourists by 2016 and two million tourists by 2025.