The Panama Canal Authority gained full control of the canal on December 31, 1999. The government of Panama awarded a 25-year contract to Hong Kong-based shipping firm, Hutchison Whampoa, for operating the canal’s container shipping ports.
Panama in taking control of the Canal also gained hundreds of thousands of acres of land and thousands of buildings. One of the US Air Force bases was converted into the domestic airport known as Albrook. The surrounding residential houses were sold to civilians. The US School of the Americas was converted into a luxury hotel.
To the West Howard Air Force Base is creating a whole new, modern community of businesses and residences. In place already, is an 8,500 foot runway that can accommodate commercial airlines as well as they do at Tocumen on the other side of Panama City.
The Tourism Authority of Panama (ATP), has indicated that the government plans to transform the once stately Howard Air Force base into a major airport increasing the attraction of European and international tourists to the region. Already a number of northern Europeans have chosen to retire in Panama instead of Spain or France to retire.
For more information on Panama: PanamaQmagazine