Press Release
May 7, 2023

Hontiveros: Privatization not a "silver bullet" for PH airport issues, focus on better management

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Sunday warned that the privatization of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other airports will not be a "silver bullet" that will solve the deteriorating conditions in air terminals, saying that the government should instead focus on greater accountability and better management of local airports.

The senator's statement came after several administration officials and lawmakers expressed their support for the privatization of NAIA operations in the wake of a recent power outage that disrupted dozens of flights in the nation's main international gateway.

"Hindi "silver bullet" o tamang reseta ang privatization sa lumalalang problema ng palpak na serbisyo sa ating mga paliparan. This is an issue of performance and accountability - hindi gaganda ang serbisyo sa NAIA kahit pa pribadong sektor ang nagpapatakbo nito, kung wala namang reporma pagdating sa sistema ng pangangasiwa ng NAIA at ng iba pang paliparan sa bansa," Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros pointed out that a private sector takeover of public utilities like airports does not automatically guarantee better services for the public, as evidenced by the country's experience with its privately operated water, electricity and rail systems. "Tingnan natin ng maigi ang nangyayari sa ating water, power at rail utilities, na ilang dekada nang privatized. Mahal na singil at paulit ulit na problema ang hatid ng mga utilities na iyan sa mamamayan," she said.

She also noted a study by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) which reported that 5 out of 6 international airports (Hamad, Tokyo, Incheon, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Istanbul) which are rated best among the world are publicly owned and operated. "The majority of the best airports in the world remain state owned. There are plenty of good practices in airport operations for us to emulate, if the government is indeed serious about fixing our airports," Hontiveros added.

"Instead of rushing towards privatization and deregulation, Malacanang and the Department of Transportation and its attached agencies should work towards ensuring clear lines of accountability and responsibility in relation to airport operations. Ayusin natin ang sistema ng pagpapatakbo ng NAIA, para hindi nauuwi sa turuan at kamot ng ulo ang pagtugon sa bawat isyu - mapa power outage man, mahabang pila, o aksidente sa paliparan," Hontiveros stressed.

Hontiveros said she supports the call by House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto and other officials for an immediate technical system audit of NAIA operations so the government can proactively identify and address weaknesses. "Kung magkakaroon ng audit, malalaman natin kung ano yung mga proyektong dapat agarang paglaanan ng pondo, para na rin sa ikagaganda ng serbisyo sa NAIA," she said.

For Hontiveros, insisting on deregulating or privatizing NAIA will create a "dangerous and reckless" mindset in government which is predisposed towards allowing private corporations to takeover public services instead of demanding better performance from public officials.

"Sometimes, there is no alternative to demanding that our public officials actually do their jobs well. This is one of those cases. We should demand more from our public officials and not encourage further complacency in the bureaucracy by bringing in the private sector everytime our public officials are unable or unwilling to do their jobs," Hontiveros concluded.

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