DOTr seeks to restore 2019 funds for evening flights in regional airports

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Thursday, September 20, appealed to senators to restore funds allowing certain regional airports to accommodate nighttime flights.

During the budget deliberations for the DOTr, Aviation Undersecretary Manuel Antonio Tamayo said their funds for 4 airports to be "night-rated" were scrapped in the proposed 2019 National Expenditure Program (NEP) by the budget department.

"We have night-rated 4 [airports] since 2017, which gives us a total of 19 out of the 44…. Next year, we're looking at 5 airports. Out of the 5, Panglao [International Airport] has already been funded, so Cauayan, Dipolog, Pagadian, and Cotabato airports will be affected [by the cuts in the proposal]," Tamayo said.

"They cannot have evening flights if we don't do the work now…. It's best to do it simultaneously as it will shorten the time [to night-rate all airports]," he added.

Night-rating of airports allows planes to land in the evening under the visual flight rules and visual weather conditions.

Under the aviation program of the government, the DOTr aims to night-rate 5 airports every year, until all 44 are completed.

This is important, Tamayo said, as passengers would have more options when evening flights become available.

Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito pointed out that night-rating regional airports would also help decongest the country's main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. (READ: Recto to DOTr: Why so slow with airport projects?)

According to Tamayo, the estimated cost of airport night-rating is roughly around P400 million, depending on civil works, navigational facilities, and air traffic requirements of a particular airport.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade also said that aside from tourism, airports need to be night-rated for security and disaster response purposes.

The approved aviation infrastructure program in the 2019 NEP only amounts to P2.16 billion.

Tugade told the Senate committee on finance that they initially proposed a P160-billion overall budget for next year, but only P76.1 billion was allowed by the budget department.

Senator Loren Legarda expressed support for night-rating other airports around the country, saying that the restoration of the funds "will be her amendment" in the proposed general appropriations bill. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.

image