Christina Erbon

As the Marcos administration intends to privatize the operations of  Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), a public policy think tank warned against capitalizing on the recent airport outage to push the agenda.

Photo Courtesy by Miguel de Guzman/The STAR / The Manila Times

“NAIA privatization proponents should not use the incident as an opportunity to push their agenda, as the [Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines'] system failure has nothing to do with rehabilitating or privatizing NAIA,” said Terry Ridon, convenor of Infrawatch PH.

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) clarified that they are proposing to have the private sector handle the operations through a concession agreement, rather than privatizing its assets.

On the other hand, Leonardo Lanzona, an economist at Ateneo De Manila University, expressed his support for the proposal as a “great plan,” but he cautioned the government to keep in mind the primary reason for the plan before finalizing a decision.

Lanzona raised concerns about asset ownership and airport fees, two issues that have consistently unsettled Filipinos.

“Would there be a fixed entrance fee?  Does that mean that a person who cannot pay for these services cannot use the airport?  Apart from being a place to embark or disembark planes, airports are vital for a country’s development as it links or mobilizes various entities together to achieve higher welfare,” he said. 

The economist proposed an alternative, stressing that “in achieving social goals, publicly operated airports can be more cost-effective than privately owned airports, as they can be financed through government funding, grants, or subsidies rather than relying solely on user fees."

Meanwhile, the DOTr assured the public that their regulatory functions will remain with the agency and that privatizing NAIA's operations will not automatically result in increases in terminal fees and there will still be government oversight. 

After operations in Philippine airspace ceased on January 1, leaving thousands of passengers stranded in what seems like 'airport purgatory', discussions of privatizing the nation's airports surfaced.

Discussion on privatizing the country’s main airport have resurfaced following the shutdown of the country’s airspace on January 1, with thousands of stranded passengers stuck in NAIA as an “airport purgatory.”

Edited by Khezyll Galvan