DOTr denies gov't to give NAIA assets to private firm eyed to manage airport

Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 24 2023 04:44 PM

Travelers arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City on Jan. 4, 2023. Airline passengers affected by technical trouble on Jan. 1 had to reschedule flights. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA — The Department of Transportation (DOTr) on Tuesday denied the government would give up assets of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to a private firm being eyed to manage its operations.

The undisclosed firm will manage NAIA's traffic through a concession agreement, which is currently the setup in Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Clark International Airport, Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said.

"Hindi naman natin ibibigay sa private sector iyong assets ng NAIA. Ang ibig niyang sabihin, it’s the private sector who will manage the operations through a concession agreement," Bautista told Palace reporters.

"Cebu is operated by GMR Megawide, although iyong asset talaga ay asset naman ng gobyerno kaya hindi naman na-privatize iyong infrastructure," he added.

(We will not give the assets of NAIA to the private sector. That only means that it’s the private sector who will manage the operations through a concession agreement. Cebu is operated by GMR Megawide, although the assets are owned by the government, so the infrastructure was not privatized.)

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President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. on Monday said government officials met with the private firm, which said it could increase NAIA traffic even without new equipment or an additional runway.

“A private firm cannot own an airport,” he said. “At most, we will have a management contract… without changing anything."

Earlier this month, hundreds of flights in and out of Manila were canceled or delayed after a power outage knocked down the air traffic management center.

Following the incident, Sen. Grace Poe said it was time to consider privatizing NAIA.

"Not just the air traffic control system but the airport in itself, I have always pushed for privatization," she said.

If a mega consortium had been awarded the airport deal years ago, Poe said they "could have rehabilitated the airport easily because there wasn’t so much activity during that time [of pandemic]".

— With a report from Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News