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The construction of a new airport terminal building and the rehabilitation of Runway 04 and 22, financed by China Exim Bank for US$50 million through a concessional loan agreement, are expected to be completed in 22 months, says Chinese Ambassador Zhang Yue.
Speaking at the ground breaking ceremony yesterday at the Roberts International Airport (RIA) in Lower Margibi County, Ambassador Zhang said the runway is also funded by the Saudi Fund and the Arab Bank for Economic Development (BADEA), supported by the United States Government and the Government of Liberia in the amount of US$30 million.
According to him, the two projects will be implemented by the China Harbor and Sino Hydro, respectively.
He explained that the new terminal will cover an area of more than 5000 square meters and designed for an average annual passenger volume of approximately 320,000 persons.
Ambassador Zhang said this is the first time that China has offered a concessional loan to Liberia.
He said further that the new terminal building is also a China-Liberia bilateral project while the entire project constitutes an outcome of multi-stakeholders cooperation.
He said from now on, « We expect to see Chinese-led speed and quality. I am confident that China Harbor will present Liberia a state of the art new terminal building. »
Earlier, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who performed the ground-breaking, said the airport will shortly be transformed and modernized through the rehabilitation and construction of the terminal.
She said during World War II, the RIA was used by the United States of America for refueling its war machineries.
« Improving the airport will be a milestone in Liberia’s social and economic development. To modernize the airport will further enhance a greater aspiration of the country and promote economic growth and development, » President Sirleaf said.
She commended the President of the People’s Republic of China, through Ambassador Zhang, and the Chinese team for their dedication and commitment to the project.
President Sirleaf expressed happiness that Liberia will have an airport that is up to international standards. « I am so glad that finally we can have an airport that will meet international standards. We feel ashamed especially when we have strangers visiting Liberia. »
She said there were priorities in priorities and the RIA project had to be put aside for some other emergency priorities and thanked the Liberia Airport Authority (LAA) management, board chair, the Legislature and all of those who have contributed to the project.
In separate remarks, the Liberia Airport Authority’s (LAA) Board Chair, Gbehzongar Findley, and LAA Managing Director, Wil Bako Freeman, thanked President Sirleaf for her extraordinary leadership to the development of Liberia and expressed delight that the project would serve as the President’s legacy.
The Ceremony was graced by senior government officials, including Margibi Legislative Caucus, international partners, citizens of Margibi and well-wishers.
The Roberts International Airport was built during the Second World War by the United States government to serve as a base for its military operations. After the war and until 1985, the airport was administered by Pan American/World Airways (Pan-Am) and remained a key link in the African network for Pan-Am. When Pan-Am ceased operations, the Government of Liberia assumed responsibility for the airport’s operations.