LRAY, FORTUNO, BORDADO JOIN FORCES: 3 solons want San Jose airport budget probed
By Jose B. Perez, Editor NAGA CITY --- Three congressmen from Camarines Sur have joined forces urging the House committees on transportation and appropriations to conduct, in aid of legislation, an inquiry regarding the inclusion of the San Jose (Partido) airport project in the 2018 General Appropriations bill. Reps. LRay Villafuerte, Gabby Bordado, and Salvio Fortuno of the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th district of Camarines Sur, respectively, on Tuesday (Dec. 5) filed House Resolution No. 1510, calling for an inquiry why the San Jose Airport Project, all of a sudden and with such dispatch, was included in the proposed 2018 national budget. (Please read related story in this issue). This came on the heels of grave apprehension by the public that the planned development of the existing Naga airport will be unnecessarily jeopardized by the new airport being pushed reportedly by Camarines Sur 4th District Rep. Noli Fuentebella. Already some businessmen and netizens have expressed fear that the basic modes of transportation to Naga and Bicol (no train, sorry state if the Bicol south road, substandard airport) are being given low priority under the current administration. As netizen, Victor Dennis Tino Nierva, laments: “We still have no long-haul trains running; and it’s been confirmed that PAL and CebuPac MNL-WNP flights will be diverted to another route next year. So we’re left with bus rides with travel time significantly extended due to sorry road conditions. As we say it in Bikol, nakua ta an mga hinahanap ta.” The resolution by Reps LRay, Fortuno and Bordado, copy of which was sent to Bicol Mail as of press time yesterday, noted that San Jose Airport has been included in the list of airports that were being reported as “being upgraded and readied for night commercial operations for 2018.” Truth is, said airport is still non-existent. The budgetary allocation for said planned airport is reflected in the GA bill in “(t)he amount of Php200,000,000.00 as contained in Page 84, volume 1-B and PhP24,5459,000.00 for Construction, Rehabilitation and Improvement” as found on Page 85 of the same volume (of the GA Bill). The Villafuerte-Fortuno-Bordado joint resolution noted further that the October 2014 Feasibility and Master Plan for the Naga Airport Development Project Final Report has recommended that “the Proposed New Naga Airport must serve as the sole [italics by Bicol Mail] future jet airport for Camarines Sur province to fully maximize the project.” In fact, as the resolution stated, the Naga Airport’s upgrading and expansion are incorporated in a 15-year plan, and has always been given a budget for the past years including the P1.002B in the 2016 General Appropriations Act and P670M in 2015. While pointing out that majority of businesses, goods, and services are concentrated in the Naga-Pili area, which is also the jump off point for tourists, the resolution also emphasizes that the Naga Airport Development has been identified and approved as a priority project by NEDA and there is in fact an existing Memorandum of Agreement on that matter between the Department of Transportation and the Provincial Government of Camarines Sur. The planned San Jose Airport is about 40 kilometers from the existing Naga airport and is accessible by a two-lane national road, compared to the Naga airport which leads by a few meters to both the North-Southbound points of the widened 4-lane Maharlika highway. And as the resolution stated, most relevant sectors in Camarines Sur -- including the Mayors’ League, Vice Mayors’ League, Councilors’ League, Association of Baranagay Captains, and business, tourism, and farmers’ groups in the province -- are opposed to a new airport as San Jose is much further from the center of commerce. Moreover, it was found out that six of the 10 mayors in the 4th congressional district (where San Jose airport is to be located), including the town of San Jose itself are against the San Jose airport project. The general sentiment is that the Naga airport must be improved and modernized first and its runway be expanded and readied for night flights and bigger airplanes.