As the primary air transport hub and therefore gateway to the Philippines, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Metro Manila is expected to be held to certain standards, especially considering the usual traffic it gets in arrivals and departures. Unfortunately that has not been the case in recent years, well before the COVID-19 pandemic. Several steps have been taken to address these problems, from a rehabilitation plan amounting to about P100 billion, and even a move to privatize the airport operations and infrastructure development. But this past Monday, signs of progress in improving NAIA were revealed to have stalled.
Inquirer.net reports that the NAIA rehabilitation and privatization project has been delayed indefinitely due to multiple extenuating factors. This was revealed by Sec. Arthur Tugade of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) on April 26, in an online briefing that is part of the pre-State of the Nation Address preparations. Because of strict requirements from the government, the opposition of some other elected officials, and the difficulties of doing any large-scale work during a pandemic and quarantine lockdowns, most private partners in the rehab plan for the airport have exited, and the national government must shoulder all upgrade expenditures by itself.
To give an example, one of the bidders for the NAIA rehab plan was Megawide Construction Corp. and Mactan Cebu International Airport contractor GMR Infrastructure. In 25 years their proposal would have expanded passenger and flight capacity for all terminals, plus linked all these with an elevated railway system. Members of Congress led opposition to the bid, which was thrown out December last year by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA). Other proposals for the NAIA improvement have been presented by San Miguel Corp. and Philippine Air Ground Support Solutions Inc., but Sec. Tugade declined to elaborate on their status.
Serious action to rehabilitate NAIA was discussed as far back as 2018 when a group of companies formed the NAIA Consortium with a rehab proposal submitted to MIAA. No deal was finalized until 2020 when the consortium simply withdrew their bet in the wake of the COVID pandemic. Now, with the other proposal from Megawide-GMR rejected, the air gateway to the Philippines continues to face an uncertain future, especially with a rising sentiment to have NAIA closed down as soon as the under-construction New Manila International Airport complex in Bulacan is officially opened in 2026.
Image courtesy of Rappler