Opening of Sangley airport rushed

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte presides over the 38th Cabinet Meeting at the Malacañan Palace on June 10, 2019. SIMEON CELI JR./PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the immediate start of operations at the Sangley airport in Cavite to help decongest the main domestic airport in Metro Manila.

The Chief Executive’s order came after he made a surprise visit at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on Monday.

The President expressed dismay over the conditions of the international airport, prompting his order to “immediately” start operations at the Sangley airport.

The Sangley airport is expected to complement the easing of air traffic, while another airport in Bulacan is also expected to rise soon.

In a statement on Tuesday, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo disclosed that Duterte’s order was announced during Monday’s Cabinet meeting, which followed after the President inspected the NAIA amid reports of flight delays and cancellations.

“The President directed the operations in Sangley Point to start immediately,” Panelo said.

He also said Mr. Duterte hinted at a possible revamp of the airport management.

During the meeting, Transportation (DoTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade revealed initial plans to transfer domestic flights to the Cavite airport.

A draft executive order will be presented to the President soon.

The Palace spokesman added that the Transport chief has tested ferries that could transport passengers from the Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City to Sangley in 18 to 24 minutes.

Tugade said he is targeting completion of rehabilitation of the former military air base in Cavite by yearend.

A group led by the late billionaire Henry Sy and media magnate Wilson Tieng earlier offered to build a new airport in Sangley Point, Cavite for $12 billion.

Tugade expressed openness to unsolicited proposals from business groups for new airports and seaports.

Meantime, Transportation Undersecretary Manuel Tamayo said that the agency has a budget of P500 million for the rehabilitation of Sangley Point, which is seen to help ease congestion at NAIA.

The President on Monday had talked to airline and airport officials regarding the cancelations and delays during his surprise visit. He also apologized to passengers over the inconvenience caused by the flight disruptions and vowed for a remedy within a month.

“The Chief Executive discussed how flight aberrations could be minimized and what actions could be employed by the government, particularly the Department of Transportation, to solve the problem in the long term,” a Malacañang statement said the other day.

The President was accompanied by Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Ed Monreal, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general Capt. Jim Sydiongco, incoming Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez and Davao businessman Sammy Uy during the inspection.

A Philippine Airlines manager and a NAIA Terminal 2 airport duty manager briefed the President on the flight woes and explained actions being undertaken to address the situation, the statement said.

Seven flights were diverted to the Clark, Pampanga airport, while 54 flights were delayed on Sunday due to a red lightning advisory, MIAA records showed.

The alert, which means that the airport was in “imminent danger” of lightning strikes, was raised at 6 p.m. Sunday and prompted the suspension of ramp operations for around two hours, Monreal said.

Meanwhile, the MIAA also on Tuesday said it will require airlines to explain flight delays following the delays and diversions that marred the schedules in the recent days.

Monreal said he will meet with officials of the airline companies before a resolution is drafted to benefit the passengers.