10 regional airports up for sale  - Bautista

At a glance

  • Transportation is key to post-pandemic economic recovery and a pre-condition for the recovery of other sectors, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime J. Bautista  told the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) General Membership Meeting, Wednesday, April 12, 2023  at Shangri-la the Fort,  in his address regarding the current state of Philippine transportation

Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista on Wednesday, April 12 ,2023, bared government plans to privatize 10 regional airports, including the privatization of the operation and maintenance of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) with the Asian Development Bank providing technical assistance in identifying  the best qualified airport operator.

He disclosed that lined up for privatization are 10 regional airports, namely:  Bohol-Panglao, Laguindingan, Bicol, Iloilo, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Bacolod, Kalibo, Busuanga and Siargao.

Addressing the General Membership Meeting of the Management Association of the Philippines at the Sangri-La the Fort, Bautista said that transportation is key to post-pandemic economic recovery and a pre-condition for the recovery of other sectors.
But while the government has a thick portfolio of major transport initiatives to keep us busy for the next five years and beyond, Bautista acknowledged that challenges abound.

In the aviation sector alone, "Apart from fund sourcing to upgrade, modernize and expand airports, we also need legislative action to separate the regulatory and operator functions of airport authorities," he pointed out.

The two conflicting functions should not be dispensed by the same agency and the country needs a law to delineate them.
A new agency should regulate airport users while another operates the airport. "We also need an independent body to perform standard aviation investigations."

And with the expansion of the air travel industry, existing airport infrastructure will not be enough, the DOTr Secretary warned.
Today, there are 90 airports nationwide but only half operate commercial flights. These include nine international airports in Manila, Clark, Mactan, Puerto Princesa, Davao, Kalibo, Laoag, Iloilo and Bohol.

"Starting first quarter of 2024, we expect airport structures to rise at San Miguel Corporation's P735-billion New Manila International Airport in Bulacan. It will decongest the NAIA and complement the operations of Clark International Airport.

He said private sector proponents have already expressed interest at operating and maintaining NAIAs four terminals and its facilities.
Another four regional airports in Dumaguete, Siargao, Zamboanga and Masbate will be improved and transferred to a new location. "We are also fast-tracking the airside improvement at Bicol International Airport, the country's newest international gateway."

On the other hand, right-of-way (ROW) remains as the "foremost challenge in the road sector," Bautista maintained.

"Funds need to be allocated for the acquisition of properties to be affected by the rail lines. Determining the most equitable acquisition cost is in itself lengthy. Sometimes, negotiations with property owners end up in courts that take years to resolve," he elaborated. "Of course, the most obvious challenge is fund-sourcing. We have already resorted to partnering with private investors, global financial institutions and even foreign governments such as Japan and China."

"After securing the funds, we have to look for the best qualified contractors among top-rated local and foreign builders."
Big ticket road projects include the EDSA Busway, which reduces travel time between Monumento and the Parañaque Integrated Terminal Exchange (PITX) to 1 hour and 30 minutes.

For its part, the P4.7 billion PITX is "our first integrated and multi-modal terminal in southern Metro Manila."
The 3.69-hectare terminal serves as transfer point between provincial buses from Cavite and Batangas and in-city modes of transportation.

PITX will also connect to the Light Rail Transit (LRT)-1 Cavite Extension rail line in September 2024.
Another vital road initiative is the Active Transport Program which allocated some 50 percent of road space for public transport, pedestrians and bicycles.

At present, the country has 564 kilometers of bike lanes and the government has budgeted P2 billion for another 470 kilometers of bike lanes nationwide.

And there's the Public Utility Vehicle Modernization Program (PUVMP), which encourages drivers and operators of traditional jeepneys to shift to modern jeepneys or electric PUVs.

As of December 2022, some 2,274 cooperatives, corporations and other consolidated companies hold 4,682 consolidated franchises and operate 127,807 PUV units.

A total of 6,470 units of modern PUVs already run a total of 405 routes.
With regards to the Rail Sector, "a significant chunk of DOTr's 2023 budget was allocated to accelerate big-ticket rail projects to move more people and goods."

Last year, total ridership for LRT-1 stood at more than 78 million; for LRT-2, over 31.6 million; for Metro Rail Transit (MRT)-3, over 98.3 million; and for Philippine National Railways (PNR), over 8.2 million. Already, the DOTr has made "substantial headway on several key rail systems.

The P64.95 billion LRT 1 Cavite Extension project connecting Baclaran to Bacoor is expected to be partially operational by September, 2024.

The 147-kilometer-long North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR), the country’s longest railway starting at Clark, Pampanga and ending at Calamba, Laguna will be constructed in phases.

Another flagship rail project, the P488.4 billion Metro Manila Subway from Valenzuela to Bicutan, has broken ground for its Camp Aguinaldo station in February.

The Unified Grand Central Station (Common Station), a 13,700-square-meter concourse linking LRT-1, MRT 3, MRT 7, and the Metro Manila Subway, can fit up to half a million travelers a day.

Also in the lineup is the P77- billion MRT 7 from North Avenue to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. It will accommodate 38,000 passengers a day and reduce travel time l to 35 minutes.

Future projects include the PNR North Long-Haul linking Metro Manila to the Ilocos and Cagayan regions; the South Long-Haul Project that goes all the way to Bicol; the Subic-Clark Railway; and the Mindanao Railway Project, a hybrid passenger and freight line that will be the first railway in Mindanao.

Other rail projects in the pipeline include a Skytrain between Fort Bonifacio and Makati; MRT 10 and MRT 11; LRT 6 in Cavite; a Cebu Monorail; and the Metro Manila Urban Cable Car project.

In the Maritime sector, the DOTr plans to boost the capability of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) by augmenting their multi-role response vessels and airplanes.

"We are looking at acquiring additional air assets, vessels, small craft and land mobility to strengthen PCG's response to any emergencies or disasters," said Bautista.

The PCG monitors vessels within Philippine waters and conducts search and rescue operations, aside from maintaining 537 lighthouses all over the country.

The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), for its part, monitors the operations of Philippine-registered sea vessels, as well as the training, certification and deployment. of 600,000 Filipino seafarers.

The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) is in charge of 745 sea ports throughout the country.
Of this number, 388 are active seaports while 45 are classified as major ports, including the ports in Manila, Cebu, Batangas, Subic,
Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Iloilo, General Santos, Zamboanga and Lucena.

The country's biggest passenger terminal building at Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro, recently opened in time for the Holy Week travel rush.

“We have also seen the resurgence of cruise ships docking at our ports," he noted. "Massive international cruise ships have been disgorging thousands of foreign tourists directly at popular holiday destinations."

Throughout the archipelago, PPA is further developing and upgrading its ports to hasten economic activities, increasing the transport of goods and services.