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Tourism is skyrocketing in Puerto Rico, which makes the construction of airports essential. Photo: FEMA/ Eduardo Martinez.
Tourism is skyrocketing in Puerto Rico, which makes the construction of airports essential. Photo: FEMA/ Eduardo Martinez.

FEMA allocates $1.7 million to Puerto Rico’s regional airports

The airports play a key role in the recovery of the tourism industry on the island.

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On Wednesday, Aug. 4, Puerto Rico received $1.7 million from The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to repair the island’s regional airports.

The funds will be distributed to different municipal airports in Puerto Rico, such as Aguadilla, Ceiba, Culebra, Mayagüez and San Juan’s Isla Grande.

The much-needed money will go towards projects, such as reconstruction, adding new concrete, and painting.

Puerto Rico’s Ports Authority cited a steady increase for tourism in Puerto Rico since many COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in the beginning of 2021 to further emphasize the importance of the funding. From 2020 to 2021, more than 863,000 visitors have been registered.

José Baquero, Puerto Rico’s federal disaster recovery coordinator said that tourism is a crucial part of fixing Puerto Rico’s economy, meaning that airports should be in standard shape for visitors.

“This network is an essential part of Puerto Rico's tourism industry and is our first impression for many travelers visiting the island, for example, from Aguadilla International Airport,” said Baquero. “That is why it is important that these facilities are in peak condition and to be more competitive as a tourist destination.”

Rafael Hernández International Airport in Aguadilla will receive close to $164,000 for security work directed towards compliance with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, and also $430,900 for reconstruction and remodeling works.

“FEMA funds allocated for the reconstruction of our airport facilities are crucial for them to continue complying with FAA requirements, but also to continue positively impacting the economic development of the municipalities where they are located, as well as their surrounding areas,” said Joel A. Pizá Batiz, executive director of the Puerto Rico Ports Authority.

Aguadilla provides direct weekly flights in both directions to metropolitan cities such as Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, New York, Newark and Philadelphia. Aguadilla is the regional airport with the most passenger traffic, having transported almost 130,000 people between 2020 and 2021, and has approximately 400 employees.

Aguadilla’s regional airport is the second-largest airport in Puerto Rico with the longest runway in the Caribbean.

“FEMA funds allocated to this airport are extremely important for the safety of the thousands of passengers who use it and the hundreds of people who work here,” said José Riollano, director of the Ports Authority's Aviation Bureau and airport manager.

Another $147,000 was granted for the Eugenio María de Hostos Airport in Mayagüez for perimeter security.

As Summer comes to an end, tourism numbers may drop, making now the ideal time to make changes to the island’s regional airports.

However, numbers in COVID-19 cases are rising, meaning travelers heading to Puerto Rico must comply with the health guidelines recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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