ACTING on President Rodrigo Duterte’s instruction to ease congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Leyte Representative-elect Martin Romualdez yesterday appealed for multi-partisan congressional support in securing additional funds for the rehabilitation and upgrade of all vital airports in the country.
“The President saw the chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 this morning and he was not pleased that passengers had to endure congestion due to flight delays and cancellations. He said this is an urgent problem that need to be solved ASAP,” said Romualdez, one of the leading contenders in the speakership race.
Romualdez joined Duterte’s surprise inspection at the NAIA, along with Manila International Airport Authority General Manager Ed Monreal, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director General Capt. Jim Sydiongco, and Davao businessman Sammy Uy.
“President Duterte took it upon himself to apologize personally to passengers who were affected by the flight delay and the cancellations. The President’s gesture was warmly received by the passengers, who clapped their hands their unison in recognition of the Chief Executive’s humility,” said Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD).
“Having seen the disruption myself, I appeal to my fellow legislators to cross party-lines and help government address the problem at the NAIA. Congress must act fast to seek funding for the rehabilitation and upgrades of our airports. The President cited Sangley, which he said must be upgraded the soonest time possible,” Romualdez, a lawyer and president of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), added.
Well-placed sources said Duterte called Romualdez as Speaker and asked to join the inspection and even rode to the presidential vehicle going to the airport.
To help decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Romualdez said the government must upgrade all vital airports across the country particularly those departing from and arriving in Manila.
The airport upgrades, Romualdez said, must include the widening of the breath of the runway and the upgrade of terminal facilities for night-flight capabilities.
Airport authorities noted that domestic flight departing Manila are crammed during daytime due to inability of provincial airports to receive flights at night.
This contributes to heavy traffic at the NAIA, which has only two runways handling both international and domestic flights.
Records from the DoTR show that only 19 of the country’s 42 airports are able to receive and dispatch night flights.
In the 2018 national budget, the government has appropriated a total of P10.1 billion to modernize the infrastructures of 40 airports, including Clark International Airport which received the biggest slice of P2.74 billion.
“If necessary, we may have to double that amount in the 2019 national budget. This requires a multi-partisan support from both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” said Romualdez.
Romualdez added he would also ask the 18th Congress to exercise its oversight function to ensure that the proposed rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport moves forward.
The NAIA consortium bagged last August an original proponent status for its P102-billion offer, which entailed the expansion of the NAIA’s capacity and various upgrades through a 15-year concession.
Nonetheless, it remains under evaluation by the Manila International Airport Authority. Should an agreement be reached, the proposal will be endorsed to the National Economic and Development Authority and then go through the mandated Swiss challenge.
The Naia proposal is aimed at providing a temporary solution to congestion woes in the country’s main airport while the government decides on alternative air gateways, including Sangley Point in Cavite.