MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino government is no longer aiming to operate 100% of the controversial but much-needed NAIA-3 airport facility by the end of 2011.
Instead, it is simply targeting to expand the useable portions of the international airport terminal, which is currently only 55% operational.
In a press briefing on Jan. 20, Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said this update on the biggest terminal facility at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the country's main gateway, came about as structural concerns still need to be addressed.
She said the Department of Transportation and Communication, which is overseeing the repair and retrofit works at NAIA-3, is simply aiming to "operate a bigger part" of the facility by yearend.
The issue of NAIA-3 capacity was further highlighted when local airlines that have operations at NAIA shared in an aviation summit this week that their passenger volume has been growing exponentially.
Even before the Aquino government could fully operate NAIA-3, they already called for a capacity expansion within the year.
The operational portions of the terminal are currently leased out to 2 local airlines, concessionaires and several government offices.
Engineering, structural and system works still need to be completed on the remaining portions of the 10-part building to ensure it is structurally safe and could withstand tremors.
Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus had said in December 2010 that their target of a 100% full operation by end-2011 was hinged on the negotiations with Japanese firm Takenaka for the repair and retrofit works, and the replacement of key airport systems.
The Aquino government, which assumed power in June 2010, inherited this airport infrastructure that has key equipment and systems that have already reached their end-of-life.
Sealing a deal with Takenaka was long considered as the fastest way to increase the operational portions of the terminal since it knows the facility intimately.
The Japanese firm was previously commissioned by Piatco, the private consortium that won the NAIA-3 Build-Operate-Transfer contract in 1997.
NAIA-3 was over 90% complete when the Arroyo government scuttled the deal in December 2002 over allegations of wrongdoings by the builders, a consortium of Filipino and German firms.
The government and the consortium members have been locked in almost a decade-long legal battles in separate arbitration courts in Washington and Singapore.
Despite the international cases, however, a parallel Supreme Court decision in the Philippines has allowed the Philippine government to expropriate the land on which the NAIA-3 stands.
As a result, the Philippine government has been compelled to pay the private consortium their "just compensation" for the already existing facility.
The government had said the cost of the repair and retrofit works will be deducted from the consortium's "just compensation."
The NAIA-3 has been cited as one of the impediments in the efforts of the government to attract foreign investors. - with report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News