Sans NEDA approval, proposed P1B Partido airport gets funding
By Juan Escandor Jr. NAGA CITY---With no approval yet from the National Economic Development Administration (NEDA) Board, a P1.14B proposed airport in San Jose, Camarines Sur gets funding under the General Appropriation Act (GAA) for 2017. Moreover, such project is assured of continuing funding for succeeding years 2018 and 2019, a project staff privy to its implementation revealed to Bicol Mail. Once completed, the proposed San Jose Airport will be the second airport in Camarines Sur. It is 45 km from the Naga Airport, the latter’s development program has been approved by NEDA with P3.4B funding in 2015. The Naga airport project involves the reorientation and extension of the present runway and the rehabilitation of its airport terminal. Jerold Peña, chief of staff of Camarines Sur fourth (Partido) district Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella and in-charge of the overall monitoring of the San Jose Airport project, admitted in an exclusive interview on Dec. 2 that even though the feasibility study of the proposed San Jose Airport project has yet to be submitted to the NEDA Board for approval, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has already committed to allocate the amount of P640M for a three year period development project. “Dai mi man huna-hunaon na kan narevive mi (an San Jose Airport project) kan (Transportation) Secretary (Arthur) Tugade, in a series of two meetings…pina-appropriate niya (Tugade) tulos nin P40 million for the land acquisition,” Peña said. (We are not expecting that when we had revived (the San Jose Airport project) with (Transportation) Secretary (Arthur) Tugade, in a series of two meetings, he (Tugade) immediately appropriated P40 million for the land acquisition.) Tugade has promised continuing funding of the development of the second airport in Camarines Sur in 2018 and 2019 under the budget of the DoTr with P200M and P400M, respectively, he added. With an estimated cost of P1.14 billion, the San Jose Airport project in the fourth congressional district of Camarines Sur requires the approval of NEDA Board which the President presides because the project cost is over P1B, according to the NEDA regional office. Gilbert Abiog, chief engineer of project development, programming and budgeting division of NEDA V, said government projects of more than P1B requires full-blown feasibility study, from marketing, technical, economic, financial, environmental to the social aspect of the project. Abiog said upon completion of the full-blown feasibility study, it will be submitted to the NEDA, after which the Investment Coordination Committee deliberates on the project before it is finally submitted to the NEDA Board for approval or disapproval. Peña said the project is initiated by the Office of Congressman Fuentebella and assisted by the DoTr and the Partido Development Administration (PDA). He said the airport project in San Jose town was originally proposed during the time of Jose de Jesus, former secretary of the then Department of Transportation and Communication. Peña said the San Jose Airport project was not given due attention and its implementation was stalled during the time of President Benigno Aquino III until the Duterte administration when Arthur Tugade was appointed the secretary of DoTr. He confirmed that the Office of Fourth Congressional District of Camarines Sur, the PDA and the DoTr have not submitted yet to the NEDA the feasibility study of the San Jose Airport project. Peña said the DoTr has revisited the San Jose Airport project and its technical report dated 11 October 2017 showed that the total project cost is P1.14B. On February 17, 2017, the groundbreaking and inauguration ceremony of San Jose Airport was held with Tugade and Department of Energy Secretary Al Cusi, together with Fuentebella, leading the occasion. However, Abiog said the NEDA regional office in Bicol was unaware and uninformed about the inauguration and groundbreaking event of the San Jose Airport, until they learned it from the media reports. “We do not have official report from the DoTr. We only learned [about] the inauguration of the San Jose Airport through the media,” he said. Abiog said the NEDA is asking the DoTr about the media report that there was a groundbreaking ceremony of the San Jose Airport. He said projects of more than P1B requires full-blown feasibility study, from marketing, technical, economic, financial, environmental and social processes. Abiog said the proposed San Jose Airport has yet to go through the process required by the NEDA. He said in 2013 the PDA has submitted to the NEDA a pre-feasibility study of the San Jose Airport. He said it was before the submission of the feasibility study of the Naga Airport Development Project. “Based on our review, we noted that it was only pre-feasibility study. So, we wrote them (PDA) and told them to give us the feasibility study report because the project exceeded the cap of Investment Coordination Committee of P1 billion. But, unfortunately, until now we did not receive response from the PDA,” Abiog said. Asked whether it is legal to appropriate fund for projects that must be approved first by the NEDA Board, Peña said it is legal since the funding is processed through the Congress. “It’s below P1B and it is being studied,” he said.