Tacloban airport rehab faces delay

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Daniel Z. Romualdez (DZR) Airport. Photo from wikipedia.org website

TACLOBAN CITY—The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has realigned more than P700 million intended for the rehabilitation of Eastern Visayas’ premier airport to the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

The move was met with criticism especially from the business sector, which had been complaining about the lack of better facilities at  Daniel Z. Romualdez (DZR) Airport.

In a letter to Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez dated Sept. 20, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya admitted that the DBM withdrew the P718.75 million that was part of the P1-billion funding for the DZR Airport rehabilitation plan.

The letter, a copy of which was obtained by the Inquirer, was in response to Romualdez’s inquiry on the status of the airport’s rehabilitation plan that was supposed to be undertaken by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

According to Abaya’s letter, about P1 billion was released to the DOTC but “in line with the DAP,” P718.75 million was taken from the amount, reducing it to P281.27 million.

The letter didn’t indicate when the portion of the allocation was removed.

Abaya assured Romualdez that the DOTC could still make do with the remaining amount since the P281.27 million could cover “the initial requirement for the rest of our development plans for the Tacloban Airport.”

He added that the government remained committed to finish the project by 2016 when President Aquino’s term ends.

With expected changes of the price levels, he added that the budget for the DZR Airport rehabilitation plan might be adjusted by the National Economic and  Development Authority.

From an earlier budget of P2.8 billion, the DZR Airport rehabilitation project would be given an allocation of P2.12 billion instead, Abaya said.

The rehabilitation of DZR Airport, which has 14 daily flights, has been in the road map for more than a decade now.

The Tacloban Airport in Barangay Costa Brava, San Jose district, here was constructed in the 1960s. The airport was later renamed after former House Speaker Daniel Z. Romualdez, an uncle of former first lady and now Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos.

Its rehabilitation plan has been in the pipeline since the term of former President Fidel V. Ramos but it had not taken off.

It was supposed to be funded by the Japanese government through its Japanese Bank for International Cooperation  but part of the funds was said to have been diverted to Bacolod-Silay International Airport in Negros Occidental and the procurement of the seacraft from Australia during the term of  former President   Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

President Aquino in his State of the Nation Address vowed to upgrade the airports in Tacloban, Mactan Island in Cebu, and Puerto Princesa City in Palawan.

He, however, did not say when the actual work would start and where to source the needed funding.

Now, when the budget had already been allocated, the DBM decided to get a huge chunk of it.

Go Tic Cheng, president of  Tacloban Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce Inc., said  the withdrawal would only delay the project.

“The passengers have suffered long enough with the sorry condition of our airport,” he said, referring to the congestion and lack of ventilation at  DZR Airport.

Orlando Uy, former president of  Leyte Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said he was surprised that a portion of the budget was removed when the project would not only benefit the people of Tacloban but the entire Eastern Visayas.

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