By Merlina Hernando-Malipot and Mario Casayuran
Vice President Leni Robredo on Friday said that the proposed renaming of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is “ill-timed” given that the country is still grappling with the COVID-19 crisis.
“Nasa gitna tayo ng pandemya ito pa talaga ang maiisip natin? (We’re in the middle of a pandemic and we think of this?)” Robredo said during an interview over CNN Philippines.
Opposition Senator Francis N.Pangilinan said a move at the House of Representatives to rename Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas (PPP) should be the least of the concerns of lawmakers.
“That should be the least of our concerns now that we are facing the (coronavirus disease) COVID-19 pandemic and millions have lost their jobs and are starving,’’ Pangilinan, president of the Liberal Party (LP), said in a Viber message to Senate reporters.
Robredo raised some issues to the measure filed on June 25 by House Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, Marinduque Representative Lord Allan Velasco, and ACT-CIS Representative Eric Yap to remane NAIA as the “Pandaigdigang Paliparan ng Pilipinas.”
At a time when the country and its people reel from the impacts of COVID-19, Robredo could not help but question the timing of the said proposal. “When I first heard this, I thought to myself: ‘Why now when we need all hands on deck and work together to address this pandemic?” she said.
House Bill 7031 states that the switch of the airport’s current name will easily “identify as the international doorway of the country in view of it being in Filipino language and branding it as the international airport of the Philippines.”
“We want it to reflect the legacy of the Filipino people, our everyday heroes. The name bears no color, no political agenda. It only signifies our warmth as Filipinos in welcoming our kababayans and foreign visitors,” Duterte said.
Velasco, on the other hand, said the proposal aims to promote the Philippines as a choice tourist destination once it reopens after the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Aside from being ill-timed, Robredo also raised the possible implication of the proposal to the country’s history. “We know why it was named NAIA so where’s our sense of history?” Robredo asked.