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Gov’t looking at privatizing Manila airport

THE DEPARTURE area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 was crowded with passengers at midnight of Jan. 2 after the Philippine air space was shut on Jan. 1 due to technical problems with the air traffic control system. — PHILIPPINE STAR/ MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE PHILIPPINE government is looking at privatizing Manila’s international airport, the Transportation department told congressmen probing the air traffic glitch that paralyzed the country’s airports on New Year’s Day. 

“The privatization of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is being studied right now,” Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista told the House of Representatives hearing on Tuesday. “We’re working with the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Public-Private Partnership Center for a possible privatization of Manila’s international airport.” 

The terms of reference of the proposal should be ready this quarter, he said, adding that letting the private sector manage the airport could help improve its service. 

Mr. Bautista also apologized to the 65,000 passengers whose flights got canceled because of the technical glitch. 

“We sincerely apologize to all those affected by the technical glitch which disrupted hundreds of flights and inconvenienced thousands of passengers not just at NAIA but in other major local airports as well,” he said. 

Assistant Minority Leader Rep. Arlene D. Brosas said that the government should be in charge of providing public transportation services. 

“There is no guarantee that privatization of our airports would mean that services would be better, fees will not increase and true public service is given,” she said, citing how the privatization of electricity and water services had led to rate increases. 

Ms. Brosas said the Makabayan Bloc has filed a bill that seeks to establish a “clear-cut bill of rights of airline passengers.” 

The NAIA air traffic fiasco on Jan. 1 was caused by a fault in one of the air traffic management system’s circuit breakers, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director-General Manuel Antonio L. Tamayo told the hearing. 

“The failure of the circuit breaker could not be anticipated in spite of the many safeguards or procedures that are being done,” he said. 

Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B. Rodriguez urged Mr. Tamayo to go on leave pending investigation of the glitch. Mr. Bautista said an intra-agency probe was being conducted.  

Senior Deputy Minority Leader Paul R. Daza moved for the committee to summon the suppliers and manufacturers of the air traffic management equipment at the next hearing. — Beatriz Marie D. Cruz 

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