By Jennifer P. Rendon
With the national government’s decision to cut the Iloilo International Airport from the 2024 budget for airport developments forcing them in a “hat-in-hand” situation, local government executives again pushed for faster actions on private sector offers to expand and upgrade the Airport in Cabatuan town.
Different business groups joined Iloilo City Mayor Treñas and Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Jr. in calling for a more urgent effort to address passenger congestion in the airport.
“I am concerned already because it’s been a long time, it is really about time. Our airport is getting congested. We have a growing number of passengers in and out of Iloilo,” Treñas said.
Treñas also cited the crucial role of airports in economic growth and tourism promotion for both city and province, as well as for the whole region.
The city mayor, who chairs the Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) of the Regional Development Council (RDC)-6, reiterated his call to the Department of Transportation (DOTr) to act with haste on the private sector-led proposal to expand the airport.
Treñas noted the IDC had come up with resolutions and has been following up on the inclusion of the project in the DOTr budget, but the latter did not have a comprehensive response to it.
Treñas plans to meet with DOTr executives to personally bring up the urgency of their concern.
He will also solicit the support of the Local Development Council, Iloilo City Council and the RDC-6 to come up with resolutions.
“We hope to endorse all the resolutions to the DOTr before the end of November,” he added.
The Provincial Development Council of Iloilo, on the other hand, recently passed a resolution manifesting the same sentiments.
“Our current terminal is overflowing (with passengers). We desperately need an expansion,” Defensor said.
Several months ago, Treñas has been vocal in pushing for the airport’s privatization.
If needed, Defensor is also amenable to it.
Treñas earlier said that two entities – the Aboitiz and Villar group – are interested in investing in the Iloilo airport.
Meanwhile, the Iloilo Economic Development Foundation Inc. (ILED) has also given its support to the proposed public-private partnership (PPP) to enhance the airport.
In a statement, ILED urged the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) for swift action to enhance the deteriorating state of the airport.
They believe that, as the primary international and domestic gateway to Western Visayas, the airport’s outdated facilities and limited infrastructure have hindered economic growth and tourism potential.
ILED further emphasized the critical need for a PPP approach to expedite the much-needed upgrades and ensure sustainable, world-class airport services.
“Collaborative efforts between the public and private sectors are paramount. Through PPP, we can leverage expertise and resources, ensuring efficient upgrades and long-term maintenance, benefiting both residents and visitors alike. ILED calls upon the CAAP and private entities to join hands in this transformative endeavor, propelling Iloilo towards a vibrant, economically thriving future,” ILED chair Terence Uygongco said.
The Philippine Chamber of Commerce Inc. (PCCI)-Iloilo also appealed to all concerned authorities to fast-track the expansion, not only of the airport but also of the Iloilo International Seaport.
The group also expressed concern about the dire need to expand and improve the primary international and domestic gateways to the region, citing its importance in catering to tourists and business transactions that fuel the economic growth of the city and province of lloilo.
“These may be done through additional government fund allocations and/or Public-Private Partnership Agreements. The urgent attention to this appeal will surely catalyze increased investments, business growth, employment and tourism for Iloilo and our neighboring provinces,” Woo emphasized.
The Iloilo Business Club (IBC) also shared the same view.
“IBC supports any improvement, expansion (of the airport) because Iloilo has been named as best hub for retirement. We are also promoting investment and tourism so the improvement must not be delayed,” IBC Vice President Marisa Segovia said.
FUNDING AND PROPOSALS
In a letter dated Aug. 3, 2023 to DOTr Secretary Jaime J. Bautista, the RDC-IDC requested immediate response and action on the funding of the airport’s proposed expansion.
“We have received information that the upgrading of the Iloilo Airport has been left out of the 2024 budget for infrastructure development of the Department of Transportation (DOTr). This is a setback for the region, given the importance of the Iloilo Airport in sustaining our growth momentum,” Treñas wrote Bautista.
The IDC appealed for the immediate review and approval of the Unsolicited Proposal (USP) and implementation of the project through PPP, as the project was not listed in the approved National Expenditure Program.
The IDC further passed a resolution, dated Sept. 15, 2023, urging the DOTr and CAAP to expedite the review of USP for expansion and upgrading of Iloilo Airport.
Based on the PPP Center, there are two interested investors who submitted USP to the DOTr for the Iloilo Airport expansion.
Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. (AIC)’s offer for the upgrade, expansion, operation, and maintenance of the Iloilo Airport costs P9.95 billion; while Prime Asset Venture, Inc.’s tender is valued at P6.89 billion.
The proposed airport expansion includes upgrading of Passenger Terminal Building (PTB), construction of an apron adjacent to PTB, installation of required equipment for passenger services, and modernization of appurtenant facilities.
According to CAAP-Airport terminal supervisor Art Parreño, Iloilo Airport caters to the increasing number of passenger traffic for commercial flights daily.
In September this year, for instance, it recorded arrivals of 2, 550 passengers including infants; while the departure traffic reached as high as 2, 876 adults and infant passengers, in one day.
Almost the same numbers were recorded daily in August this year, and pre-pandemic passenger traffic.
As to aircraft traffic, Parreño cited another example data in August wherein around 25 aircrafts for arrival and another 25 for departure have been recorded daily.
These are apart from the daily aviation flights (private planes) from various origins coming into the Iloilo Airport.
He noted that originally, the main passenger terminal was designed to cater to 400 to 450 passengers.
The airport is also not designed to cater to international flights as it is a domestic airport built on international standards.