MISSED OUT AGAIN? Iloilo airport not in 2024 budget for infra upgrades

Airline passengers wait for their luggage at the arrival area carousel of the Iloilo airport in Cabatuan. (F.A Angelo photo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

It appears that Iloilo airport in Cabatuan town has been left out of the 2024 budget for infrastructure development of the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

This is based on the list released by Makati City Rep. Luis Campos Jr., vice chairperson of the House committee on appropriations.

Apart from the P2.8 billion in fresh funding for the upgrading of Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (NAIA) aviation infrastructure, the following airports were included in the DOTr’s proposed budget for the construction of various airports and navigational facilities:

-Kalibo International Airport (P581 million);

-Laoag International Airport (P500 million);

-Tacloban Airport (P500 million);

-New Dumaguete Airport (P500 million);

-Busuanga Airport (P405 million);

-New Zamboanga International Airport (P300 million);

-New Manila International Airport (P200 million);

-Bukidnon Airport (P120 million); and

-New Bohol Airport (P97 million).

Under the government’s 2024 National Expenditure Program, the DOTr has a total of P6.1 billion for the construction of various airports and navigational facilities. The amount is double this year’s P3.1 billion.

In March 2023, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas raised to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) the exclusion of the Iloilo airport from the list of key projects of the current administration.

Treñas asked NEDA to include the Iloilo airport in the list of priority projects because of its growing flight and passenger numbers.

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 added.

NEDA Undersecretary for Investment Programming Group Joseph Capuno referred Treñas concerns to DOTr Undersecretary for Planning and Project Development Timothy John Batan.

Capuno cited the mayor’s statement on the need to expand Iloilo airport’s capacity “to cater to more passengers and possibly increase local jobs.”

“Mayor Treñas reported that the existing airport in the Western Visayas regional center is already reaching its capacity, and expanding the airport would not only accommodate the increasing number of passengers but would also create more job opportunities and support the growth of the city’s economy,” Capuno said in the letter.

Capuno said they have noted that the expansion is not included in the DOTr’s submission of proposed infrastructure projects for inclusion in the Public Investment Program (PIP) 2023-2028 and the Three Year-Rolling Infrastructure Program (TRIP) 2024-2026.

But Capuno’s letter to DOTr and Treñas did not express nor imply an endorsement from the NEDA as it simply referred Treñas concerns to the DOTr, citing its authority over the air transport sector and industry of the country.

“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.

Capuno 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.

In April, Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. confirmed that it has submitted an offer to improve the Iloilo International Airport.

“We are actively exploring… growing our airport platform and, in fact, we have just submitted an unsolicited proposal to develop and improve the Iloilo International Airport as a response to [Iloilo] Mayor [Jerry] Treñas,” Aboitiz InfraCapital Chief Executive Officer Cosette Canilao said in a briefing on Tuesday.

Treñas had also asked Aboitiz InfraCaptial to consider taking on the project under a public-private partnership arrangement.

“We believe that we have the right ingredients in AIC in terms of experience and expertise via our technical partner Dublin Airport authority and on-the-ground knowledge to deliver the best solution for Iloilo,” Canilao said.

“We are excited for our proposal to be considered and we look forward to working with the government for that,” she added.

Aboitiz InfraCapital also submitted updated unsolicited proposals for Bohol International Airport, Laguindingan Airport, and Bicol International Airport for NEDA evaluation and approval.

Treñas had also been vocal in reopening the Iloilo airport to international flight services and even wrote the country’s three biggest airlines to either introduce or reinstate flights to and from Hong Kong and Singapore.