The measly P1-million budget for new aviation infrastructure under the proposed 2021 budget is reflective of the harsh times, Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said Sunday.
“The DOTr’s (Department of Transportation) Aviation Infrastructure Program is getting only P1 million in new capital outlay in the 2021 national budget…harsh reality is, we are now in a situation wherein all our 49 airports nationwide may be operating well below capacity for a very long time,” Pimentel said, alluding to the effects of the persisting COVID-19 pandemic.
Last week, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines bared that 16 of the country’s airports are still closed to commercial flights.
“We would urge tourism-related establishments across the country to brace for a long recovery, especially if they used to rely mainly on foreign visitors,” the Mindanaoan noted.
The Montreal, Canada-based International Air Transport Association had earlier said it does not see global airline traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels until 2024. Even domestic air travel may take a long time to bounce back.
“Our sense is many Filipino families will likely avoid local air travel for leisure purposes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available. Most Filipinos seeking leisure will likely take road trips closer to their homes – such as the nearest beach resort – that won’t require air or sea travel,” Pimentel said.
Tourism-related businesses may have to rely on local visitors for an extended period, he said. But even domestic tourism is bound to be dampened by the economic backdrop of many Filipinos losing their jobs and disposable income.
At any rate, Pimentel said the P1-million allocation for new aviation infrastructure in 2021 “does not mean there won’t be any construction activities in our airports.”
“The DOTr is just completing airport projects for which funds have already been obligated,” he noted.
He recalled that Congress had appropriated P16 billion in development funding since 2018 to expand and improve the country’s aviation facilities and services. This was meant to cope with the pre-pandemic boom in air travel and address airport congestion.