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Zubiri on NAIA mess: Fix airport issues or let foreigners manage

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Wednesday asked President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. to issue an ultimatum to the management of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to fix the problems at the country’s main gateway.
Alternatively, the government can enter into a contract with foreign firms to manage NAIA, the Senate leader said at the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum.

“The President should just give an ultimatum to the NAIA management… Kung di niyo kaya iyan, i-outsource na lang natin ‘yan. Gano’n na lang (If they can't do it, just outsource). It’s within his powers. And then we can do a bidding process and ask the internationally known and recognized airport management groups to manage it,” Zubiri said.

“My point is mediocre is not an option for the Filipinos. We have to handle it efficiently and effectively. And that is why we are appealing to our public servants in our country,” he added.

The Senate chief made the statement after a power outage hit NAIA Terminal 3 on Labor Day. The incident happened four months after the Philippine airspace shutdown on New Year’s Day.
Zubiri said the Philippines’ main airport can be handled by the group that manages Singapore’s Changi Airport, which was hailed as the world’s best airport for 2023, according to airport and airline review firm Skytrax.

“Under the (Revised) Public Service Act, we approved the law, it can be run already by internationally known corporation. So that is an option kung hindi kaya ng mga kababayan, mga genius na nandodoon ngayon ay baka pwedeng ibigay na lang natin sa iba,” he said.

(So that is an option; if our countrymen cannot do it, especially the geniuses at NAIA, maybe we can give the management of the airport to other people.)

In a Super Radyo dzBB interview, Senate public services committee chairperson Grace Poe said she believes that the Labor Day power outage at NAIA was not due to sabotage but due to negligence.
The lawmaker said the incident was connected to the officials' admission that the power backup can only supply 30% of the airport’s electricity demand.
She also mentioned a 2017 audit of the airport’s electrical system, but there were no improvements or adjustments made over the past few years.

“Parang nakikita ko medyo talagang may kapabayaan sapagkat nu’ng nakalipas na taon hindi naman nila sinabi sa amin na kailangan namin ng generator para magkaroon ng 100% backup. Bakit di nila sinabi yon?” she added.

(I think there was negligence because, over the past year, they did not ask us for a generator for 100% backup power. Why didn't they tell us?)

“Parang ina-angguluhan nila na national security issue ito. Hindi natin alam hangga’t matapos [ang imbestigasyon] pero sa tingin ko hindi e. Kasi alam nga nila na 30% power lang ang pwedeng mag-function pag nagkaron ng blackout. So obviously, talagang may kakulangan,” she went on.

(It appears that they are portraying it as a national security issue. We won't know for sure until the investigation is over, but in my opinion, it's not. They were aware that in the event of a blackout, just 30% of systems would function. So obviously, there is a shortcoming on their part.)

On the Manila International Airport Authority’s (MIAA) request for a P1-billion budget for the procurement of power generators for NAIA terminals in case of a power failure, Poe said the transportation officials should have requested this during the budget deliberations last year.

Poe said they can tap the unprogrammed funds under the 2023 General Appropriations Act or revolving funds from NAIA operations.

Meanwhile, Senate finance committee chairman Sonny Angara said the Department of Budget and Management should include MIAA’s request when they submit the proposed budget for fiscal year 2024 because this is considered “critical infrastructure.”

A supplemental budget and the use of savings are other options to fund the requested power generator, he added.

During the Kapihan sa Manila Bay forum, Zubiri said that they already told Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista to provide a list of equipment that needs to be funded.

“Airports are strategic facilities,” he said.

Poe said she “intends” to call for a hearing not only to tackle the power outage in NAIA but also the other problems in the air transportation system and land transportation, including the failure of the Land Transportation Office to produce vehicle plates.

She also urged Bautista, a former airline executive, to exercise caution when taking advice from his subordinates.

“Sa tingin ko, kailangan din sya mag-ingat doon sa mga nagbibigay ng payo sa kanya kasi parang hindi natin alam kung tama ang intensyon ng mga ‘yan,” she said.

(Because we cannot be certain that the advice is being given with the best of intentions, I believe he should act with caution.)

“Ang DOTr napakalawak e. Kahit na ang expertise mo let’s say airline, meron pa rin d’yang ground transport, merong sea [transport]. So you really have to choose the right people because you can’t be an expert in [everything]…Parang nagkaroon ng lamat e. Parang nagkaroon ng blemish [‘yung record niya],” she added.

(The DOTr is a big agency. Even if your expertise is, let’s say, airline, the department also supervises ground transport and sea transport. So you really have to choose the right people because you can’t be an expert in [everything] …It seems that his record has been blemished.)  —VBL, GMA Integrated News