Passenger Forum launches online poll asking Filipinos to decide on NAIA’s future
MANILA, Philippines — Decrying attempts to derail the rehabilitation and transformation of Manila’s decades-old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), The Passenger Forum, a respected organization advocating for the Filipino passenger rights and welfare, called on the public to decide on the future of NAIA.
“Who does NAIA serve? The public, not government bureaucrats. Why do we need a better NAIA now? Because tens of millions of our fellow overseas Filipino workers should have a national airport that respects and treats them with dignity,” said Primo Morillo, convenor of The Passenger Forum.
“Millions more every day — Filipinos plus international businessmen and tourists — need a NAIA that will make our nation proud,” he added.
Rehabilitated NAIA key to post-pandemic recovery
Morillo also pointed out the role that an efficient airport complex can play in the country’s efforts to build back from the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What are the facts? For years as the rest of Southeast Asia’s capital cities invested in building multi-billion-dollar airports, NAIA was mired in scandal after scandal. Whilst it may no longer be among the world’s worst airports, it is lifetimes away from the world’s best and from what our fellow countries have across ASEAN,” Morillo emphasized.
“And because of those airport investments, that’s why the rest of Southeast Asia will grow faster than we are projected to. Our economy fell 9.5% in 2020 according to NEDA,” he went on. “You would think the Department of Transportation and the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) would be fighting for the Filipino’s economic future right now.”
“Yet last December 15 in a spurious, hastily scheduled board meeting, the MIAA affirmed the removal of Original Proponent Status (OPS) from the one company who proposed a full rehabilitation and transformation of NAIA. We demand to know why!” he said.
In July 2020 after two years of protracted negotiations with the so-called Super Consortium of eight of the country’s major conglomerates failed, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) removed OPS from the consortium.
Within days after being invited to bid, the partnership of Filipino construction, infrastructure, and airport developer Megawide and India’s GMR Infrastructure – the world’s fourth-largest airport operator – was invited to bid for NAIA’s rehabilitation and the OPS was granted.
Megawide and GMR qualified but OPS removed
However, soon after the Megawide-GMR partnership submitted their bid, the two companies became subject to months of accusations, alleging they lacked the financial capability to undertake the project, or that even the partnership did not exist any longer, according to Morillo.
Then, on Dec. 15, the OPS was mysteriously removed — without explanation or basis.
As revealed in a Senate hearing on Dec. 17, the partnership of Megawide and GMR had more than the full P109-billion equity required by the DOTr.
Sen. Grace Poe, chair of the Senate public services committee, asked DOTr Secretary Art Tugade why the OPS was removed from the company when they were prepared to prove their financial qualifications.
“It seems the government is very selective about equity requirements,” Poe said the next day during an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel’s “MarketWatch.”
“After all, the proponents behind Dito Telecoms only had to provide 10 percent equity for a project that will cost P250 billion? So why be so stringent for Megawide and GMR which has proven they have the experience to deliver world-class airports?” she added.
In 2018 Megawide and GMR opened the transformed Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), to date the Philippines’ only world-class, globally acclaimed international airport complex.
MCIA bested Singapore’s Changi Airport Jewel in terms of design at the 2019 World Architecture Awards.
“The Passenger Forum is not for any individual proponent, especially for any individual company,” Morillo explained. “What we are for, in fact, is that the Filipino nation continues to progress, and President Duterte’s call for better transportation infrastructure for our people proceeds apace. Megawide and GMR are the only proponents who have proposed to fully rehabilitate and transform NAIA now.”
Transforming NAIA into a world-class capital city airport
According to Morillo, Megawide and GMR’s P109-billion proposal for NAIA promises to eliminate traffic bottlenecks, transform terminals 1, 2, and 3, build a new super international terminal, deliver world-class shopping, dining, lounge, and cultural experiences.
A new airport train will also be built linking all terminals, like Singapore’s Changi Airport and Hong Kong International Airport, providing seamless transfers for the first time.
“We know the giant San Miguel Corp. has begun works for their Bulacan airport, to be built upon 1,700 hectares reclaimed across North Manila Bay,” Morillo said. “We don’t deny that the country needs a mega airport complex, but considering it is likely to be 10 years — at least — until the airport in North Manila Bay is completed, what is the Philippines supposed to do? Stagnate more, fall further behind? Even San Miguel surely doesn’t want that. Every Filipino must be for progress, not one company’s own interests.”
Morillo explained the best course of action would be to let Filipinos decide on what should be the future of NAIA.
“That’s why we encourage everyone to lend their voice now to what should happen at NAIA by going to https://www.inquirer.net/thepassengerforum and answer three simple questions. You can also lend your voice by commenting. We hope every Filipino who is concerned about our economy, our country and our future participate in the poll now,” Morillo said.
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