By Jerry Maglunog
There are 82 airports in the Philippines, but only less than 10 are earning, according to the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap).
Caap, the agency that regulates policies to assure economic and safe air travel, said despite the so big number of airports that don’t make money, it can’t sell any of the severely losing airports to any entity.
“Surely, there will be no takers,” the agency’s deputy director general RodanteJoya said. He said the severely losing airports are so many to mention compared to those that make money.
Airports that are at least earning are those in Kalibo, Caticlan, Davao, Tagbilaran, Negros Oriental, Tacloban and Puerto Princesa.
According to Joya, the biggest loss of Caap in these airports is the salary of two to three personnel, maintenance and even side expense like cutting of grass in the tarmac.
“Caap spends for maintenance and airport caretakers. Of the 41 airports with commercial operations, only less than 10 are earning.
We cannot close non-earning airports because of public service considerations,” the official added.
If selling losing airports is not permitted under the law, turning it over to respective local government units is not permitted as well.
“Because it is public service that every government in the world must provide.
How can you close those airports? Public service is every government’s principal mandate,” he said.
Despite the huge losses incurred by Caap, the agency has to take responsibility for these airports as doing so is a national duty mandated by the International Civil Aviation Organization (Icao), where the Philippines is one of the signatories.
The Philippines currently has 40 severely losing airports and 30-plus moderately losing airports.
Most of the severely losing airports are in secluded areas like Awang (Cotabato), Basco, Masbate, Catarman, Jolo, Camiguin and Mati.
It could have been operating three hugely profitable airports, but the three—Ninoy Aquino International, Clark International and Cebu International—have been removed from its roster and turned over to the national government.
However, Joya said turning over financially losing airports to LGUs can be possible if there is a law that will mandate municipalities and cities to have their own airports.
John Andrews, a former deputy director general of Caap and Joya’s flying teammate at the Philippine Air Force, said airports in the country have proliferated, particularly the losing ones, because of the politicians who lobbied at the national government to build in their province.
Andrews said aside from losing airports, Caap is also beset by so many airstrips built lately. Airstrips are mostly used by air taxis located in secluded islands like Amanpulo, Cagayan, Balesin and Lubang.
Between the losing airports and airstrips, Andrews admitted that those airports that don’t make money give bigger headaches to Caap.
Also registering huge losses are those in Masbate, Mindoro Occidental, Naga, Pangasinan, Batanes and Cagayan Valley.
Very recently, a girder of a crane involved in the construction of Naia expressway caused an almost 10-hour traffic along Tramo and Andrews Avenue, two main arteries going to Naia 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Aside from losses, many airport users complain of severe air traffic at Naia. The air traffic causes flights to be delayed by an average of 30 minutes. Unfortunately, Naia is one of the five airports that are not under Caap.
Also not under the agency are Clark International Airport, Mactan-Cebu International Airport, Subic International Airport and San Fernando Airport.
“If those are under us, our losses are not that severe,” Joya said.
Joya also said that, despite the losses, Caap cannot close the airports. He added that it will continue to maintain and operate the airports “as long as the national government says so. That is why all those who serve the government and people are called public servants.”
“Losses are not reasons to abandon this duty,” Joya, who has over 20,000 flying hours in helicopters and jet fighters, affirmed.
Caap is the national aviation authority of the Philippines and is responsible for implementing policies on civil aviation to assure safe, economic and efficient air travel.
The agency also investigates aviation accidents via its Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board.