Solons rallied behind Duterte transport plan

Martin Romualdez

LEYTE Rep. Martin Romualdez on Sunday rallied congressional support for a 30-year transport roadmap that seeks to upgrade existing airports, including the Tacloban airport, into international facilities.

“I am elated to hear that government has finally committed to upgrade Tacloban airport into an international airport. Upgrading our airports in the provinces for international use will surely boost local economies and ensure equitable growth among the regions,” said Romualdez, who was endorsed by President Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte to be the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.

“The Duterte administration has ushered in the Golden Era of Infrastructure in the Philippines. This is an opportunity for us to come up with a roadmap that will guide policymakers in developing transport infrastructure linking all areas in the country,” Romualdez, president of the Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD), added.

The plan to construct more international airports and rehabilitate existing ones was unveiled by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade in a meeting with Romualdez and 40 other congressmen at the Manila Golf late Wednesday afternoon.

Tugade said the airport development program is part of the 30-year roadmap designed by the Duterte administration to set in place an integrated and more coordinated approach in building transport infrastructure linkages in the entire country.

“I am seeking all your help to ensure that this roadmap will be approved by Congress. Without legislation, this roadmap will remain just a program that may be scrapped by future administrations,” Tugade explained to lawmakers.

He noted that various transport-related agencies and local governments have been trying to develop their respective transport plans or strategies to address bottlenecks and improve outcomes in the transport sector.

“However, to be able to bring a more focused or targeted intervention that is more inclusive, these various strategies need to focus on establishing interconnectivity between key urban growth centers and between lagging and fast-growing regions, and creating supporting institutions that promote greater integration,” said Tugade.

The 30-year roadmap, he said, will serve as a strategic framework that will help policymakers identify the transport needs of the Philippines as well as guide them in implementing an integrated, more coordinated approach to establishing stronger transport infrastructure linkages to support the country’s inclusive growth agenda.

Romualdez, a lawyer and President of the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), and his fellow congressmen readily expressed their agreement with Tugade and vowed to mobilize support for the approval of the 30-year roadmap in the House of Representatives.

“I requested the assembly of congressmen here today precisely for that reason. We badly need a strategic framework for linking the entire country though well-designed infrastructure projects. This is one program worthy of our all-out support,” said Romualdez.

All congressmen present during Tugade’s presentation agreed with Romualdez’s pronouncement, with Albay Rep. Joey Salceda even committing himself to be an author of the proposed transport roadmap in the 18th Congress.

Aside from crafting the 30-year transport roadmap, Romualdez said Congress must ensure funding requirements in the 2020 budget for all transport-related infrastructure projects, including the rehabilitation and upgrade of all vital airports.

“Even the President has taken notice of the chaos at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2. He was not pleased to have witnessed how passengers endured congestion due to flight delays and cancellations,” said the Leyte lawmaker.

To help decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Romuadez said the government must upgrade all vital airports across the country particularly those departing from and arriving in Manila.

The airport upgrades, he said, must include the widening of the breath of the runway and the upgrade of terminal facilities for night-flight capabilities.

Airport authorities noted that domestic flights departing Manila are crammed during daytime due to inability of provincial airports to receive flights at night.

This contributes to heavy traffic at the NAIA, which has only two runways handling both international and domestic flights.

Records from the DoTR show that only 19 of the country’s 42 airports are able to receive and dispatch night flights.

In the 2018 national budget, the government has appropriated a total of P10.1 billion to modernize 40 airports, including Clark International Airport, which received the biggest slice of P2.74 billion.

“If necessary, we may have to double that amount in the 2020 national budget. This requires a multi-partisan support from both the Senate and the House of Representatives,” said Romualdez.