MANILA, Philippines – In keeping with his promise to find a solution to flight cancellations and delays at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) within a month, President Rodrigo Duterte hinted at major changes in the facility.
At the 38th Cabinet meeting on Monday, June 10, the President ordered the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to immediately implement its plan to transfer some NAIA flights and operations to Sangley airport in Cavite in order to decongest NAIA.
During the Cabinet meeting, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade updated the Chief Executive on the plan to transfer "general aviation or domestic flights" to Sangley Point Air Base or Danilo Atienza Air Base, which is being developed into an airport.
It had earlier been reported that the transfer of some business flights to the new airport may be done within the year. The DOTr had said it was just awaiting the construction of a passenger terminal building, hangars, a new tower, night operations equipment, and completion of a 2,300-meter runway.
Duterte told the Cabinet on Monday that wants operations to begin right away.
"The President directed the operations in Sangley Point to start immediately," said Panelo.
Specifically, Duterte gave a November deadline, ahead of the DOTR's December target.
"Parang gusto ni Presidente, “Hindi, masyadong nang matagal iyong December. November na lang (Looks like it's what the President wants: 'No, December is too late. Make it November)," said Panelo.
To bolster this plan, Tugade reported that his department began testing the operation of ferries that can bring airplane passengers from the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City to Sangley airport "within 18 to 24 minutes."
On the morning of the Cabinet meeting, Duterte made a "surprise inspection" of NAIA Terminal 2 where he promised airplane passengers of a solution to flight woes.
"He shared to the Cabinet Secretaries what he found out in his surprise visit at the NAIA. He expressed dismay and hinted at its revamp," Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday, June 11.
Duterte also wants airport security to be handled "by a single entity, either from the military or civilian force." (READ: U.S. says NAIA security measures inadequate – envoy)
Tugade is set to submit a draft executive order reflecting Duterte's directives.
The decongestion of NAIA has been a longterm goal of past administrations, given that the country's main international gateway has been operating way beyond its capacity. – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.