New Manila International Airport: What’s next, an alien invasion in Bulacan?

Published September 25, 2020, 4:32 PM

by Rj Nieto

THINKING PINOY

RJ Nieto
RJ Nieto

While most of us are uncertain as to whether we’ll survive this COVID-19 pandemic, we all know that humanity, as a whole, will.

Soon, people will be flying again. Soon, repatriated Filipinos will leave the country again for jobs abroad. Soon, Filipinos will start traveling to their favorite tourist spots.

That’s a problem. We still don’t have a new airport, so everyone will have to bear with using the excruciatingly congested NAIA. And we know what spreads in crowded places, right?

The New Manila International Airport in Bulacan should have been the answer. With a projected capacity of 100 million passengers annually, the mega airport would be able to not only accommodate demand but also incorporate new protocols to avoid virus transmission.

Unfortunately, it appears that interest groups and no other the government itself is blurting out every excuse just to delay its construction, even if they know that no real alternative proposals exist.

First, government officials said the Bulacan Airport could depress land values in Clark City. Since when was it the government’s job to keep real estate prices high? Shouldn’t the government be glad that land prices become more affordable for the Common Tao?

Second, government officials said it’ll just be a white elephant, a waste of money for San Miguel shareholders. Since when was it the government’s job to ensure the profitability of a private corporation? Is the government more knowledgeable about San Miguel’s finances than San Miguel executives themselves?

Third, government officials said the contract between San Miguel and the government needs to be reviewed for fairness, even if NEDA has approved the project years prior. Do other cabinet secretaries think that NEDA’s approval has no bearing? Why check what has already been checked?

And just when San Miguel is about to secure a congressional franchise to build the airport, things took an even more absurd turn. Phivolcs, the country’s meteorological agency, joined the fray when it said the airport’s choice of locations exposes it to the risk of storm surges.

Do we have Yolanda-level typhoons every day? Can’t we temporarily close the airport before a storm surge and reopen it when the coast is clear? Storm surges are an issue for this Bulacan airport but not for Sangley, even if they are both in Manila Bay?

You know what? If we had a fully functioning Philippine Space Agency (which we don’t), I bet it would follow Phivolcs’ lead and say the airport’s site is dangerous because of an impending alien invasion.

Let’s just be honest here: the government as a whole wants the New Manila International Airport, but some very powerful government officials don’t. Government officials, who churn out ridiculous excuse after ridiculous excuse, do nothing but insult the General Public’s intelligence.

The ongoing litany of criticisms has become so ridiculous, the government might as well tell Ramon Ang to forget about it. The government should stop clutching at straws and tell Ramon Ang that even if the country needs a new, bigger, and better airport, it’d rather let someone else make money out of it.

A relative of a secretary in the cabinet, for example.

Yes, we all know that only a handful fly right now, like what happened in the days and weeks following the 9/11 World Trade Center Bombing. But just like that fateful event, people will eventually fly again.

And when that happens, we will again be welcomed by NAIA, an 80s-era airport that was stuck in 1980s.

You know what would really be ironic? When Filipinos emerge from this pandemic with a renewed sense of optimism, only to face another wave of infections in the congested NAIA airport.

I have little doubt that President Duterte had nothing but the best intentions for this country when he entered Malacañang, and I have little doubt that he really wanted to rid the government of corruption. Unfortunately, he might have appointed a few people in his cabinet, people who do not share his view.

Mr. President, the Philippines has over 7,000 islands, and one in ten Filipinos are overseas. Given this, aviation is indispensable for this country’s social, political, and economic growth. Please don’t let some of your appointees prevent this as they prioritize their vested interests at the expense of everybody else’s.

Mr. President, you said, “Change is Coming.”

Please let this change come to civil aviation.

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