Tu­gade turns into Mar Roxas

The Philippine Star - - BUSINESS - BOO CHANCO

I had a strange feel­ing it was about to hap­pen. Last week I got my con­fir­ma­tion. Trans­porta­tion Sec­re­tary Art Tu­gade has turned into a Mar Roxas clone. That ex­plains a lot.

I caught an in­ter­view of Tu­gade on an ANC busi­ness news­cast say­ing he wants to turn NAIA into an­other BGC. That’s ex­actly what Mar Roxas wanted to do, too.

There is more. Like Mar Roxas who or­dered the do­mes­tic air­lines to cur­tail their flights to ease air traf­fic con­ges­tion, that’s also what Tu­gade is about to do.

The re­as­sign­ment of all do­mes­tic flights of Cebu Pa­cific and Philip­pine Air­lines to Ter­mi­nal 2 pun­ishes the air­lines for in­vest­ing in new fleets to meet the grow­ing needs of our econ­omy. Ter­mi­nal 2 is too small for the do­mes­tic pas­sen­gers of PAL and Cebu Pa­cific.

A city plan­ner, who has worked with some of our top prop­erty de­vel­op­ers, thinks con­vert­ing NAIA to an­other BGC will worsen Metro Manila’s con­ges­tion. If Tu­gade wants to close down NAIA, the re­spon­si­ble thing to do is to con­vert it into some­thing like New York’s Cen­tral Park to give us some breath­ing space. I un­der­stand that is also what JICA plan­ners sug­gested, if we close down NAIA.

Tu­gade sug­gested in that in­ter­view that gov­ern­ment could make a lot of money open­ing NAIA for prop­erty de­vel­op­ment like BGC. Tu­gade fails to un­der­stand that mak­ing money is not his ob­jec­tive. Look­ing af­ter the peo­ple’s wel­fare is. Then again, I am sure some politi­cians are even now sali­vat­ing at the money to be made, if Tu­gade im­ple­ments an idea first broached by Mar Roxas.

Tu­gade claims DOTr is com­plet­ing its study of the two un­so­licited pro­pos­als to fix NAIA. But he al­ready tele­graphed his in­cli­na­tion to de­cline both of­fers. He told the re­porter that NAIA is prof­itable and gov­ern­ment could do what the pri­vate pro­po­nents want to do.

Like Mar, Tu­gade misses the point. Of course, NAIA is prof­itable. It has been re­mit­ting ex­cess earn­ings to the Na­tional Trea­sury. That sug­gests its fees are prob­a­bly ex­ces­sive, or it has failed to spend the money to de­liver the ser­vices the pub­lic is pay­ing for.

The main points of the un­so­licited pro­pos­als, in case Mr. Tu­gade missed it are: 1) We need im­me­di­ate up­grades to NAIA be­cause it will take 10 years to build a new air­port from scratch, more in our case due to bu­reau­cratic red tape. Based on ex­pe­ri­ence, in­clud­ing the two years of the Duterte regime, we can­not ex­pect gov­ern­ment to have a sense of

ur­gency in car­ry­ing out any NAIA im­prove­ment other than in press re­leases.

The ur­gency to do some­thing was cap­tured by a re­cent ar­ti­cle in The Econ­o­mist:

“Air­ports in places such as Manila and Jakarta are crum­bling and sur­rounded by snaking traf­fic. Plans are afoot to in­crease an­nual ca­pac­ity at Bangkok’s air­ports by tens of mil­lions over the next four years. Hanoi’s Noi Bai will be ex­panded at a cost of $5.5 bil­lion by 2020. Air­ports in Sin­ga­pore and Kuala Lumpur are to be up­graded too.”

2) Since we are sure we will still be us­ing NAIA, for the next 10 years, we can­not risk suf­fer­ing gov­ern­ment style man­age­ment. Ed Mon­real is a lot bet­ter than P-Noy’s cousin who pre­tended to man­age NAIA, but even Mon­real has prob­lems with gov­ern­ment pro­ce­dures. That’s why it took time to get spare parts for the air con­di­tion­ing sys­tem of the ter­mi­nals to work well. The rapid exit taxi­ways needed to ease con­ges­tion, is also tak­ing too long to build.

Still, it is good Tu­gade fi­nally re­vealed his plans for NAIA. Up un­til last week, pri­vate en­ti­ties have been wast­ing money on con­sul­tants as they pre­pare one un­so­licited pro­posal af­ter an­other to im­prove NAIA’s sit­u­a­tion.

Be­fore the NAIA Con­sor­tium and Me­gaw­ide sub­mit­ted their pro­pos­als, Philip­pine Air­lines also sub­mit­ted a pro­posal to im­prove and ex­pand Ter­mi­nal 2. But DOTr barely ac­knowl­edged the sub­mis­sions. In the last two years, the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion and Tu­gade have done lit­tle or noth­ing other than talk about their gran­diose plans.

When I had the priv­i­lege to talk to Tu­gade be­fore he as­sumed of­fice, I thought he would be an ac­tion man. I warned him, as I did the Roxas-Abaya team, that time will pass by so quickly which makes act­ing on projects urgent. That’s one other rea­son why Tu­gade now re­minds me so much of Mar Roxas and Jun Abaya. Teka teka din pala.

The flip flop from PPP to GAA or ODA is an­other un­for­tu­nate sim­i­lar­ity. Tu­gade in­her­ited two vi­tal PPP projects al­ready ap­proved by the NEDA Board ready for pub­lic bid­ding.

The bun­dled five do­mes­tic air­ports had at­tracted rep­utable po­ten­tial bid­ders who have spent money prepar­ing fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies and were ready to com­pete in a pub­lic bid­ding. Tu­gade un­bun­dled that and now they have five air­ports to be bid­ded out in­di­vid­u­ally, but no one knows when. It is the same thing with the ap­proved pri­va­ti­za­tion of NAIA mod­ern­iza­tion, op­er­a­tions and main­te­nance.

No won­der Bud­get Sec­re­tary Ben­jamin Dio­kno ex­pressed con­cern that agen­cies are not per­form­ing up to par when it comes to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Build Build Build pro­gram.

In­fras­truc­ture spend­ing in Jan­uary hit P43.3 bil­lion mainly on ac­count of com­pleted projects of DPWH, the dis­as­ter-mit­i­ga­tion and la­har-con­trol works in Cen­tral Lu­zon, and the pur­chase of com­mu­ni­ca­tion equip­ment as part of the Depart­ment of Na­tional De­fense-Armed Forces of the Philip­pines mod­ern­iza­tion pro­gram.

“I am not happy with that. There’s go­ing to be a lot of catch­ing up [to do],” Dio­kno said. Can they pick up the pace of in­fras­truc­ture spend­ing in the re­main­ing eight months of the year? Hope­fully!

Luck­ily there will be good news. Me­gaw­ide’s new Mac­tan ter­mi­nal will be opened in a lit­tle over a month’s time. But this ad­min­is­tra­tion has lit­tle to do with that.

Build Build Build may suf­fer the fate of P-Noy’s infra projects that run out of time and will be com­pleted by the next ad­min­is­tra­tion. That’s what Dio­kno is wor­ried about.

Boo Chanco’s e-mail ad­dress is . Fol­low him on Twit­ter @boochanco

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