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Vietnam plans 3 small airports in northern highlands
By Mai Ha - Thanh Nien News -
 A file photo of Na San Airport in the northern province of Son La. Photo: Tri Dung
Vietnam will need more than VND9.8 trillion (US$438.77 million) to build and upgrade three small airports in the northern highlands next year, according to the national aviation authority.
The airports in Lai Chau, Lao Cai and Son La provinces will serve a total of 1.5 million passengers a year when the first stages of their construction are completed within the next six years, the agency said in a report sent to the Ministry of Transport.
The state will fund the project to upgrade Son La's Na San Airport, which has been shut down since 2004, at a cost of more than VND1.98 trillion ($89.01 million) in the first stage, according to the report.
It said the government will collaborate with private investors in developing the airport of Lai Chau Province, whose first stage will cost over VND4.06 trillion ($179.72 million).
The airport of Lao Cai Province, on the other hand, is expected to be totally funded by private investors under a built-operate-transfer contract. Contracted investors will build the airport, operate it for a certain amount of time before transferring it to the government.
Near the famous Sa Pa Town, the airport is estimated to cost over VND3.04 trillion ($134.69 million) in the first stage.
Last month real estate conglomerate Sun Group sought the transport ministry's permission to build the Lao Cai airport, according to local media.
Vietnam is now home to 22 airports, but only Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City and Noi Bai in Hanoi are making profits, the country's sole airport manager Airports Corporation of Vietnam reported at the end of last year.
Under a national plan for aviation development approved seven years ago, Vietnam will have 26 airports, including 10 international ones, by 2020. The government also plans to add several small airports for helicopters and short-haul aircraft.