BELIEVE it or not, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) plans to spend only P1 million on new aviation infrastructure in 2021, amid the collapse in air travel due to the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) crisis.
“The DOTr’s Aviation Infrastructure Program is getting only P1 million in new capital outlay in the 2021 national budget,” Deputy Speaker and Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said on Sunday.
“To cope with the pre-pandemic boom in air travel and address airport congestion, Congress had authorized over P16 billion in development funding since 2018 to expand and improve the country’s aviation facilities and services,” Pimentel said.
“The DOTr even equipped many airports so that they can operate flights at night,” Pimentel pointed out.
“But harsh reality is, we are now in a situation wherein all our 49 airports nationwide may be operating well below capacity for a very long time,” Pimentel said.
Pimentel does not expect international air travel to rebound anytime soon.
“We would urge tourism-related establishments across the country to brace for a long recovery, especially if they used to rely mainly on foreign visitors,” Pimentel said.
The Montreal, Canada-based International Air Transport Association earlier said it does not see global airline traffic returning to pre-pandemic levels until 2024.
Even domestic air travel may take a long time to bounce back, Pimentel said.
“Our sense is, many Filipino families will likely avoid local air travel for leisure purposes until a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available,” Pimentel said.
“Most Filipinos seeking leisure will likely take road trips closer to their homes – such as the nearest beach resort – that won’t require air or sea travel,” Pimentel said.
Last week, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said 16 of the country’s airports are still closed to commercial flights.
Tourism-related businesses may have to rely on local visitors for an extended period, Pimentel said.
But even domestic tourism is bound to be dampened by the economic backdrop of many Filipinos losing their jobs and disposable income, according to Pimentel.
“The P1 million budget for new aviation infrastructure in 2021 does not mean there won’t be any construction activities in our airports,” Pimentel said.
“The DOTr is just completing airport projects for which funds have already been obligated,” Pimentel said.