Amid criticism, lawmaker says renaming NAIA will repair airport's negative image

Jauhn Etienne Villaruel, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 26 2020 09:02 PM | Updated as of Jun 26 2020 10:13 PM

MANILA — A lawmaker pushing to rename the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Friday deflected criticism about the timing of the proposal amid the pandemic, saying it is "high time" to "let go of its negative image."

ACT-CIS Party-List Rep. Eric Go Yap, along with Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Jay Velasco and President Rodrigo Duterte's son Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, co-authored a bill to rename NAIA into Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas (PPP), saying this would help make the Manila airport easily identifiable as the Philippines' main terminal.

The NAIA in 2018 was among the world’s "most improved" airports, according to a survey released by London-based research firm Skytrax. Before this, NAIA earned the notorious title of being the "worst" airport in the world by several ranking websites.

Yap cited this improved ranking as one of the reasons to rename the airport.

"Along with this recognition, it is high time to rename NAIA so we could finally let go of its negative image. With this name change, we are presenting a positive and objective image to our international airport," Yap said in a statement.

The move of the lawmakers drew criticism on social media as the country was still grappling to contain the increasing cases of coronavirus infections.

Among those who called out the measure was Vice President Leni Robredo, who called it "ill-timed."

But according to Yap, COVID-19 response remains to be the lawmakers' priority.

"We are not imposing this HB (House bill) to be a priority measure... Our focus is still on addressing COVID-19 in the country," Yap said.

Yap also denied that renaming the airport would discredit martyred Sen. Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., after whom the country's main gateway was named. The opposition senator, a vocal critic of the Marcos dictatorship, was assassinated at the airport in 1983.

"We are not discrediting the heroic contributions of late Senator Aquino with this proposal. We just deem it more appropriate for our international airport to bear the name of the country. Instead of it reflecting just one hero, we want it to reflect our everyday heroes – the Filipino people," Yap said.

The lawmaker also said they are open to other names but will "push for it to bear the name of the Philippines as it is the international gateway to our country."