Immediate NAIA rehab to benefit the economy

"This is the best time to undertake the rehabilitation, given the reduced passenger traffic due to the pandemic."


In our last column, we raised concern over what appears to be the undue delay in rehabilitating the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which was once dubbed as “one of the world’s worst airports.”

What we didn't know was that last Tuesday, the Manila International Airport Authority had already revoked the Filipino-owned Megawide Corporation’s original proponent status (OPS) for its P109-billion unsolicited proposal to upgrade and transform NAIA into a Banawe rice terraces-inspired Manila landmark, possibly to be recognized globally as an “airport wonder of the world.”

Megawide has already received numerous global awards for its Mactan-Cebu International Airport, even besting Singapore’s magnificent Changi Airport. It is now in the process of modernizing Clark International Airport in Pampanga to world-class standards.

In a radio interview on December 12, Puwersa ng Bayaning Atleta (PBA) Partylist Rep. Jericho Nograles referred to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade as incompetent for not having done anything for NAIA, claiming that all improvements therein have been made by the previous administration. 

To be fair, Tugade has accomplished so much in his term, with ongoing projects ranging from airports, transport terminals, railways and even a subway system for Metro Manila. As for NAIA, the current administration has managed to increase its seating capacity, improve the efficiency of airport operations and upgrade its rating so that it is no longer one of the “worst airports” in the world. 

In fact, records show that from 27 million passengers during the previous administration, NAIA now handles as many as 47.8 million passengers, despite its rated capacity of only around 30 million.

This is an accomplishment in itself and a testament to NAIA's improved efficiency, with travel experiences last year far better than those during the previous administration.

While NAIA operations have vastly improved in recent years, the bureaucratic process has hampered the implementation of further measures to upgrade the travel experience of both locals and foreigners. Kapatirang Isip Malaya (KAISMA), a multi-sectoral organization, believes that strong vested interest in the project may have been too much for the MIAA to resist.

In another radio interview, MIAA General Manager Ed Monreal refused to answer the question regarding Megawide. He simply said, “Teka muna." (Let's just wait.)

KAISMA president Junex Doronio is convinced that “any delay in the rehabilitation of NAIA is contrary to public interest.”

"Despite supposedly being politically aligned with the President and his brother working as Cabinet Secretary, Congressman Nograles’s opposition is hurting Duterte’s legacy project,” Doronio said.

Terry Ridon of Infrawatch said that the issues raised by the lawmaker against Megawide will drag NAIA’s rehabilitation beyond the term of President Rodrigo Duterte. He urged the various departments to work together to resolve the matter and fast-track the NAIA rehabilitation project.

“There is no better time to undertake needed rehabilitation work than now, given reduced passenger volume due to the coronavirus crisis,” he pointed out.

The Passenger Forum (TPF), a commuter group, has also urged the DOTr, NEDA, and the MIAA to update the public on whether the rehabilitation plan will still continue.

“This is the best time to rehabilitate NAIA while there is less air traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said TPF convenor Primo Morillo.

 “What happened to the proposal? Ano na? We would like to get an explanation from the government why the project cannot proceed.”

 Morillo underscored that the rehabilitation is urgently needed as NAIA is operating beyond its capacity, which, he said,  is the reason for many passenger problems and inconveniences such as long lines, flight delays, and even the lack of waiting areas.

An inquiry by the Senate Committee on Public Services chaired by Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares wants to dig deeper into the cause of the delay in the rehabilitation of NAIA.

We hope the inquiry will unravel the truth because people want the rehabilitation of NAIA to proceed as soon as possible and given paramount consideration and importance by the Duterte administration.

And then there were five

China has been blamed —unfairly, Beijing says—for the outbreak of the deadly COVID-19 in Wuhan city, Hubei province that has since spread throughout the world and rages on until now in varying degrees. While the country has effectively halted the spread of the virus, it is now actively involved in developing a total of five vaccines for the contagion. There are four main producers–CanSino based in Tianjin, CNBG in Wuhan, Sinovac in Beijing, and ZFLongkema in Anhui. Since there are few COVID-19 cases at home, Chinese vaccine makers have had to test the effectiveness of their products overseas: five candidates are in efficacy trials (phase 3) in at least 16 countries.

These companies are said to have taken varying approaches to developing a viable vaccine. CanSino has developed its product by using a widespread and largely harmless virus known as adenovirus 5, into which they stitched a gene for the surface protein of Covid-19.

On the other hand, Sinovac Biotech and CNBG have taken a different approach: vaccinating people with the whole, “killed” virus. This requires no sophisticated protein or RNA design or genetic engineering. Scientists simply inactivate the virus with a chemical and mix it with another substance that effectively puts the immune system on full alert by irritating it. And unlike mRNA vaccines, which have to be stored at subzero temperatures, inactivated viruses require no more than ordinary refrigeration.

These vaccines require two doses to be administered, while a small minority of patients can suffer chronic reactions to such vaccines and even develop the disease, which the CanSino vaccine is less prone to induce. Most of the Western COVID-19 vaccines use the CanSino approach.

China has joined the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (Covax), an effort led by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Global Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to make sure that any products are proven to be safe and effective and quickly reach rich and poor countries alike.

Chinese regulators are reported to be satisfied with studies from the companies involved in the national vaccination program. In June, CanSino received authorization to vaccinate the military, and since then both Sinovac and CNBG have received the green light to vaccinate large populations in China outside of ongoing clinical trials.

CNBG says “hundreds of thousands” of people in China have received its vaccines. “By doing this, we are able to build an immune barrier among specific groups of people like healthcare workers, pandemic prevention personnel, and border inspection personnel. We did not receive a single case report of severe adverse reaction, and no infections reported for vaccines working in high-risk areas, it said in the

The vaccines can be used by Beijing as "an instrument for foreign policy to promote soft power and project international influence," said Yanzhong Huang, a senior fellow for global health at the Washington-based Council on Foreign Relations. "China not only has the political will (for its vaccine diplomacy), it also has the robust capacity to make that happen," Huang said.

Because China has largely contained the virus, there's no urgent need to vaccinate every one of its 1.4 billion population. "That gives it this make deals with countries in need of the vaccines," he added.

From early on, Chinese leaders had repeatedly stressed that China's vaccines are for sharing, especially with the developing world.

In May, Chinese President Xi Jinping told the WHO's annual assembly that China would make its coronavirus vaccine a "global public good," calling it the country's "contribution to ensuring vaccine accessibility and affordability in developing countries."

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian welcomed last week efforts by the Philippine government to promote international cooperation in vaccines. He noted that the Philippine government has been negotiating with various vaccine developers including Chinese vaccine enterprises. "We are happy to see positive progress in vaccine cooperation between China and the Philippines. I hope Chinese vaccines could contribute to the fight of the Philippine government and people against COVID-19 at an early date."

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Topics: Ernesto Hilario , Ninoy Aquino International Airport , NAIA rehabilitation , Manila International Airport Authority , MIAA , Megawide Corporation , COVID-19 vaccines
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