Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Arthur Tugade expressed his great dismay over the terminal facilities he witnessed in a surprise visit at the Zamboanga International Airport (ZIA) yesterday morning.
Sec. Tugade conducted the inspection, along with Aviation Undersecretary Skee Tamayo and officials of the Civil Aviations Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), to personally take a look at the current state of the ZIA, and make sure that appropriate and scheduled improvements are done following his conversation with President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.
The sorry state of the small baggage carousel, the lack of appropriate gang chairs and passenger seats at boarding areas, immediately caught the ire of the Secretary.
Further, during the inspection, Secretary Tugade, discovered multiple potholes as deep as 2 inches from end of runway 09 to runway 27.
"Nakakadismaya! Hindi matanggap ng kalooban ko na ganito ang sitwasyon ng airport na ginagamit ng mga Zamboangeńo. Dagdagan pa natin ang atensyong dapat na maibigay sa Zamboanga,” said Tugade.
Rehabilitation of Zamboanga International Airport
To immediately address the issues in the ZIA, Sec. Tugade ordered the immediate procurement of gang chairs to ensure that passengers will be provided with comfortable seats, as well as new baggage carousel to facilitate efficient baggage handling.
Further, Tugade mentioned that he will closely coordinate with the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the relocation of informal settlers that were affected by the Zamboanga seige.
He then ordered CAAP Deputy Director General for Operations Donaldo Mendoza and OIC Deputy Director General for Administration Ric Banayat to make sure that Allison Cargo immediately removes their containers, as the same adversely affect airport security.
The transportation secretary likewise instructed CAAP officials to ensure that the handling area of Cebu Pacific Cargo becomes restricted, and not open.
The PhP160-million budget for asphalt overlay has recently been awarded this year. Originally, construction is scheduled to commence as soon as the winning bidder is given the notice to proceed.
However, as Secretary Tugade recognizes the need and urgency of employing a swift remedy, he gave an ultimatum to airport officials, and instructed them to start the asphalt overlay of the entire runway, as well as the repair of potholes today, to ensure the safety of the aircrafts and its passengers during landing and take off. Sealing of cracks will commence immediately.
Asphalt overlay of the whole runway will take several months, as work can only be done at night when there are no more flights till early morning.
"Pagbalik ko at hindi pa maayos ang Zamboanga Airport, pag-uuntugin ko mga ulo ninyo. Sisiguraduhin kong may mananagot dito," he said.
Visit to Slain CAAP Officer
While in Zamboanga, Sec. Tugade likewise used the opportunity to pay his respect and express condolence to the family of the slain CAAP Officer in Charge (OIC) for Intelligence Jeric Flores, who was shot dead in his house near the airport Saturday evening.
At the morgue, Tugade assured the grieving wife that all efforts will be exerted so that justice maybe served.
"Tayo po ay lubos na nakikiramay sa mga naulila ni Mr. Flores. Makakaasa po kayo na katuwang tayo sa paghahanap ng hustisya para sa kanya," Tugade said.
Apart from offering financial assistance for the wake and funeral, the transportation chief also offered to provide Flores' wife with employment should she desires.
Initial investigation of the police cites Flores' refusal to sign a ghost project worth PhP300 thousand pesos as the possible motive in the killing.
Flores is also part of the CAAP team auditing the airport says ZIA OIC Toto Alfonso, the assigned airport manager.
ZIA management has been under careful scrutiny recently as Airport Manager Naga Rascal was suspended by the Ombudsman due to alleged involvement in corrupt activities.