By Rjay Zuriaga Castor
The Regional Development Council of Western Visayas (RDC-6) has approved a resolution seeking to remove and replace the officer-in-charge of the Iloilo Airport and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Area VI (CAAP-6).
The resolution, approved on November 8, emphasized that Iloilo Airport manager Manuela Luisa Palma and Engr. Eusebio Monserate Jr., acting area manager of CAAP-6, have apparently neglected the calls of the council’s Infrastructure Development Committee (IDC) for updates on the rehabilitation of the airport in Cabatuan town.
It also noted that the officials failed to show up at the RDC-IDC fourth quarter meeting at the National Economic and Development Authority-6 office in Iloilo City on the same day the resolution was approved.
The IDC VI stressed the existence of a “leadership crisis” at Iloilo Airport, emphasizing the need for a “new, responsive, and more active management” to address ongoing concerns.
It added that Iloilo Airport is “not in good condition and cannot accommodate the increasing passenger and cargo traffic.”
According to CAAP, the airport was the fifth busiest in the country in 2022, with a passenger traffic of 1,708,764.
The development council also highlighted that several facilities and equipment at the airport need repair and improvement, particularly the non-working escalators and chillers.
“The main escalator at the airport is inoperable, awaiting replacement of parts, resulting in discomfort and reduced mobility for the public, particularly people with disabilities, children, pregnant women, and senior citizens. Only two chillers are fully operational, while the remaining two chillers are 50 percent operational,” the resolution read.
As a major gateway to Western Visayas, RDC-6 said the development of the airport is vital in the ongoing development efforts of the region, particularly given Iloilo City’s recent recognition as the Philippines’ first UNESCO “Creative City of Gastronomy.”
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas, who also chairs the RDC-IDC, expressed his disappointment with the current status of the airport.
“The air conditioning machines are not working, x-ray machines are not working, the escalator is not working. Even the toilets are smelly. It is no longer the same airport. Furthermore, the passenger terminal is congested. No plans from CAAP national at all,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, CAAP-6 in an interview expressed surprise at RDC-6’s recent move, noting that they are also fulfilling their duties for airport facility operations and maintenance.
CAAP-6 added that they are doing their best to expedite the expansion of the airport while adhering to the stringent bidding process.
In October this year, the Iloilo Airport manager attended the Provincial Development Council (PDC) Executive Committee meeting which discussed the proposed expansion of the airport.
During the meeting, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr., concurrent chair of the PDC, passed two resolutions on the airport’s upgrade.
The proposed expansion of the airport will be carried out through a public-private partnership (PPP) model under the unsolicited proposal of Prime Asset Ventures, Inc. (PAVI), valued at P6.89 billion.
On October 6, PAVI conducted an ocular inspection at the airport to assess its facilities, including the passenger terminal, runway, and control tower, among others.
Palma also mentioned that PAVI requested several necessary documents from them to support their unsolicited proposal.
The Department of Transportation has directed PAVI to resubmit its proposals based on the new Build-Operate-Transfer law implementing rules and regulations and the 2022 Investment Coordination Committee Guidelines and Checklists in processing PPP projects.