MANILA - Several incumbent and former senators on Wednesday frowned at the idea of changing the name of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to Ferdinand E. Marcos International Airport.
For Senator Sherwin Gatchalian who ran for reelection under President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.’s "Uniteam," introducing bills that would provoke more conflict should be discouraged, especially during this period when the country is undergoing a crisis.
Marcos Jr. is the son of the late strongman.
"My personal take on that (bills that may worsen disunity) the battle cry is to unite the Filipino people, unite the country against inflation, against rising fuel prices, against potential food security issues. Dapat mag-concentrate tayo doon, dahil hindi simple itong mga problemang ito. I agree it’s very difficult to face these problems with a disunited country," Gatchalian said in an interview.
Another Marcos Jr. ally, presumptive Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, also shook his head upon hearing the proposal filed by Negros Oriental Arnolfo Teves, Jr.
Teves claimed Marcos Sr., who became president in 1965, "built or conceptualized" the airport project.
However, according to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) records, NAIA's international runway and associated taxiway were already built in 1953, while a control tower and terminal building for international passengers were already completed in 1961.
Zubiri said the airport’s name should be changed to what it used to be known, to settle the issue.
"I don’t know what our colleagues will be discussing. Mas pabor na gawin na lang natin na Manila International Airport. Ibalik na lang natin sa original name," Zubiri told reporters.
Senator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III raised a one-liner reaction: "Hmmmm…. Why?"
Even former Senate President Vicente Sotto III saw the proposal as something that will only revive the controversy regarding the airport’s identity.
"Could be very controversial. It's better to bring back the old name instead, Manila international Airport," Sotto said.
For former Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, what should occupy the attention and consume the energy of today’s lawmakers, are legislations that would help the nation survive the crisis.
"We urge the 19th Congress to address the more urgent issues of inflation, unemployment, hunger, the economy, education and other national concerns rather than such divisive issue as the name of an airport," Drilon said.
Divisive issues the senators believe, include discussions about the proposed charter change, or giving a 5-year term with one reelection to a president, vice president, congressmen, local officials down to village chairmen.
For Gatchalian, discussing charter change is not necessary at this point.
What should be prioritized in Congress he said, is how to address inflation.
Talking about 'cha-cha' might derail the attention of Congress and Senate to the pressing problems right now which is inflation and external head wins. Mabigat yung problema natin eh. So we should concentrate on these problems," Gatchalian said.
Zubiri also junked the necessity of looking at amending the 1987 Constitution.
"I think ang usapin natin should revolve around paano natin bubuhayin muli ang ekonomiya, paano natin iangat muli ang kabuhayan ng ating mga kababayan…Yun na muna yung pag-usapan natin kasi galing tayong pandemya, madaming nahihirapan na mga kababayan natin. Hindi pa tapos ang COVID-19, so we have to support the President in his of course health program sa darating na mga buwan. Yun na muna ang pag-usapan natin. I would say right now that’s not our priority," Zubiri said.