Heroes’ Lounge in CAAP airports also open to civilians who pay
MANILA, Philippines — The Heroes’ Lounge in all airports operated by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) is open not just to military and police officers, including Medal of Valor awardees, but also to civilians willing to pay.
CAAP airport manager Mary Sulyn Sogorsor made the clarification on Tuesday during the hearing of Senate Finance Subcommittee K on the proposed 2024 budget of the Department of Transportation.
Sen. Grace Poe, who presided over the hearing, had asked Sogorsor about a post circulating on social media where a retired Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, a Medal of Valor awardee, shared how he was denied use of a Heroes’ Lounge as it was supposed to have been reserved by foreigners.
Sogorsor pointed out that the lounge was, in fact, a VIP lounge open to everyone who could pay.
“Tuguegarao airport [and] all the other airports are following the availability of our VIP lounge. There are specific guidelines and procedures for that,” Sogorsor said, speaking partly in Filipino.
“And then my staff followed that procedure because on that day, Sept. 23, 2023, Colonel Querubin and his escorts came to the office and asked for the availment of the lodge. The escorts were entertained by our staff, and they were informed that the lodge is already reserved and in use.”
“Because we have that policy of first come first served, that is also in accordance with our revised protocols,” she added.
According to Sogorsor, the use of the lounge costs P500 per hour, but it is free for government officers and Medal of Valor awardees.
“In the airport, we encounter different guests — American, Japanese, Koreans, different nationalities. It’s common to us. Every time they avail of the VIP lodge, they have to follow the protocols,” Sogorsor said.
Asked who reserved the lounge for the foreigners — who happened to be Chinese — Sogorsor said it was an official of the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).
Poe then told the secretariat of the hearing to request the CEZA official to explain the lounge was reserved for foreigners.
“I still want to know who they were. Why was CEZA the one who arranged for the VIP treatment?”’ Poe said in Filipino.
Sogorsor explained that most of the guests were the officials’ friends and that the Chinese were actually based in Tuguegarao.
Poe asked why it was named “Heroes’ Lounge” in the first place.
Sogorsor explained that that name was used to show that it was open to military officers and Medal of Valor awardees — though still subject to availability and policies.
“It’s called Heroes’ Lounge. It’s really confusing,” Poe said. “Just remove ‘Heroes’ Lounge’ and put ‘Pay Lounge’ or maybe put a big sign saying ‘Subjec to Availability.”
Poe also suggested turning the lounge into a shared private space, between military and police officers and paying civilian passengers.