By Joseph B.A. Marzan
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas on Thursday is hoping that the national government will prioritize the expansion of the Iloilo International Airport in Cabatuan, Iloilo after it was excluded from the list of key projects.
In a statement to the media, Treñas stressed the need to continue pushing for the upgrading and development of the airport, which is classified by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) as an international facility.
“We need to continue pushing for the development of our international airport since it is now overcrowded. If it is expanded, we can accommodate more flights and more visitors,” he told media via Viber.
He shared a March 23, 2023 letter from National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Undersecretary for Investment Programming Group Joseph Capuno that was addressed to Department of Transportation (DOTr) Undersecretary for Planning and Project Development Timothy John Batan.
Capuno’s letter referred Treñas’ March 13 letter to NEDA that requested the inclusion of the Iloilo International Airport in the list of priority projects of the national government.
He cited the mayor’s statement indicating the airport’s capacity and emphasizing the need for the expansion to cater to more passengers and possibly increase local jobs.
But Capuno’s letter did not express nor imply an endorsement from the NEDA, simply referring the request to the DOTr, citing its authority over the air transport sector and industry of the country.
Capuno also noted the absence of the airport in the list of the DOTr’s priority infrastructure projects, either in the Public Investment Program (PIP) 2023-2028 and the Three Year-Rolling Infrastructure Program (TRIP) 2024-2026.
“As the primary entity in charge of planning and programming, coordinating, and implementing, among others, the promotion, development, and regulation of safe, efficient, and reliable transportation services and systems in the country, including air transport facilities, we deem that the subject request is under DOTr’s purview,” Capuno said in his letter.
The NEDA official did cite an unsolicited Public-Private Partnership (PPP) proposal to develop and manage Iloilo airport.
“We also understand that there was an unsolicited Public-Private Partnership (PPP) proposal for the rehabilitation, operation, maintenance, and expansion of the Iloilo International Airport submitted to DOTr and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) during the previous Administration. As such, DOTr may wish to provide the Office of the Iloilo City Mayor updates on the said PPP proposal or other plans, if any, for the Iloilo Airport,” Capuno added.
Treñas had been very vocal in efforts to expand the Iloilo International Airport and reopen it to international flight services in the last few weeks, having written to the country’s three biggest airlines to either introduce or reinstate flights to and from Hong Kong and Singapore.
He had also written to Aboitiz InfraCapital Incorporated (AIC) to appeal on enhancing the airport’s functionality, citing its impending takeover of operations at the Mactan-Cebu International Airport in 2024 during a press interview on March 16.
AIC had submitted a proposal in 2018, which was granted original proponent status by the CAAP, but it remained with NEDA since 2019.
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. has also expressed openness to the expansion of flights at the airport, calling it a “practical need,” referring to a possible expansion project in 2023 via PPP.