Getting Naia’s P74-b project off the ground

Four months after the green light was given for a P74-billion makeover of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the project still has to get past the bidding process and off the ground.

Interested parties who are eager to submit their bids are wondering: What’s taking the Department of Transportation too long to get things going despite the go-ahead by the National Economic Development Authority. The three-year rehabilitation of Naia as approved by the country’s economic planners in September seeks to improve aviation safety, airport security and maximize arriving and departing passenger capacity, The problem is public bidding cannot take place without the prerequisite terms of reference being spelled out by the DOTr.

To say the total rehabilitation of Naia is badly needed would be an understatement. Considering the increasing number of air and passenger traffic worldwide, it is a shame the country is being left behind in providing a world- class airport. For this, the Naia has earned the ignominy of being ranked by international travelers as the world’s worst airport.

The upgrade of Naia is not expected to be finished in time for two major international events this year—the Asean Summit and the Miss Universe beauty pageant both being hosted by the Philippines in 2017. But the government still has an obligation to redeem the country’s “premier” gateway from the rut it has fallen into. The timeline for the completion of the P74-billion airport project is three years, midway into President Rodrigo Duterte’s six-year term.

It would be to Duterte’s credit if he could leave a new, improved Naia as his legacy. It should not be only to impress foreign and VIP visitors to the country, like heads of states and the Miss Universe contestants from various countries. Filipino taxpayers also deserve to have an efficient, modern airport. Above all, it is the responsibility of any government to ensure air safety. The Naia has only one runway and limited parking berths for jumbo jets. This has often resulted in arriving airliners being kept on a holding pattern above and around the airport. There are more regional airlines coming up while the major carriers increase their present fleet and want more frequency to fly into Manila.

How will the country cope with the increasing number of arriving and departing passengers? It’s bad enough that major international carriers like KLM, Lufthansa and Swissair no longer fly into Manila because of air safety concerns.

The airport rehabilitation project covering the three international terminals plus the domestic terminal seeks to increase and improve airside and roadside facilities. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade is seeking emergency powers for President Duterte to address road, railway and airport problems. But there’s really no need for emergency powers for the Chief Executive—if only his Transportation Secretary only acted with dispatch on projects already approved and funded.

The clock is ticking, Mr. Tugade. Do you have to have someone light a fire under your seat?

Black Nazarene

Today is the feast of the Black Nazarene, the annual procession followed by Filipino devotees. The event has gained worldwide attention because of its religious fervor bordering on fanaticism.

The procession of the Black Nazarene starts from the Quiapo Basilica and then snakes its way through the streets in the district as the black icon, borne on the shoulders of men who swear by its miraculous effect on them, is followed by the throng numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Attendees and devotees in the nearly 12-hour procession reach as much as a million and increasing every year.

Because of threats of terrorist acts, the Philippine National Police has deployed at least 5,000 policemen in uniform plus some more in civilian clothes to watch out for any suspicious activity during the procession. Such events with a gathering of a big crowd is the perfect place to explode bombs to exact the highest number of casualties. With the recent spate of terrorist acts in Florida, Berlin, Istanbul, Paris and Brussels, Manila could be the next target and the police cannot be too careful Radio signals in the area affected by the route of the Black Nazarene procession has been temporarily turned off by authorities to preclude detonation of bombs activated by remote control from cellphones.

Topics: Ninoy Aquino International Airport , Department of Transportation , National Economic Development Authority , Getting Naia’s P74-b project off the ground , Black Nazarene
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