By Juan Escandor Jr.
NAGA CITY---Saying the planned San Jose Airport has yet to go to the proper process of approval, Vice President Leni Robredo raises legal question when P200M and P25M have been allocated to it in the 2018 General Appropriation Bill that was passed in the House.
“Is there a legal question? There is,” Robredo, a lawyer by profession, said in a press conference when Bicol Mail Bikol Editor Danny Aureus raised the question.
She said big-ticket project has threshold of P1B, so that projects above P1B cannot be funded if it will not pass through the Regional Development Council (RDC) and National Economic Development Administration (NEDA) Board.
“What I know about this San Jose Airport is that it costs P1.14B or P1.40B. It already had initial releases. But the basis is not the release per year but the entire project cost,” Robredo said.
She said since it had been
given a budget of P40M this year and P200M next year, it did not follow the regulation because it must pass through the RDC and the NEDA Board.
However, Jerold Peña, chief of staff of Cong. Arnulfo Fuentebella and the head of the project monitoring of the San Jose Airport project, maintained that the budgetary allocation given to the planned second airport in Camarines Sur is legal.
Peña said the funding of the San Jose Airport went through the process in the House and the amount allocated to it is below the P1B threshold.
Camarines Sur third district Rep. Gabriel Bordado Jr. said the House Resolution 1510 that he and second district Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte and fifth district Rep. Salvio Fortuno filed on Dec. 5 says the same thing---it questions why the San Jose Airport project did not pass through the process.
Opposing the inclusion of the San Jose Airport in the 2018 General Appropriation Bill which will still be approved in a bicameral meeting, Villafuerte wrote President Duterte why the San Jose Airport must not be funded.
In a letter dated November 9, 2017 addressed to President Duterte through Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, Villafuerte asked for the review and consideration of the budget allotted to the San Jose Airport already included in the 2018 General Appropriation Bill.
Villafuerte explained that the San Jose Airport project is a duplication of the Naga Airport and is therefore an unnecessary waste of government funds.
He cited studies that among the areas in Camarines Sur it is the Naga Airport that should be developed in the existing domestic airport in Pili to best serve Metro Naga and Camarines Sur province and its influence area.
“A number of locations were considered for the new Naga Airport, including the following: Pili, where the existing airport is, as well as Ocampo, Pasacao and Libmanan. San Jose, Camarines Sur was merely in the Supplemental List of candidate airport site,” Villafuete said.
He said that the studies cited that the site in San Jose is number four while the existing Naga Airport in Pili is the number one based on site investigation, review of available secondary data relevant to evaluated sites, key informant interviews, and application of Multi-Criteria Analyses (MCA).
“Choosing to fund the San Jose Airport over existing Naga Airport is putting to waste years of painstaking efforts to improve and expand the airport in the province of Camarines Sur,” Villafuerte said.
He said that giving budget to what the studies rank number fourth and not even the second or third is contrary to the feasibility studies conducted and against the budgetary rules and processes.
Not viable, feasible
Another reason why Villafuerte opposes the construction of the San Jose Airport is that it “is not viable and not feasible; it contradicts the Naga Airport Development Project.”
He said the San Jose Airport project is not viable because the majority of businesses, goods and services are in Naga-Pili area, which is also the determined jump off point for tourists.
Villafuerte said the push for the Naga Airport Development Project is in fact identified and approved as priority project by the NEDA, and in an existing Memorandum of Agreement between the DoTr and the provincial government of Camarines Sur.
“However, no budget in 2018 is allocated to Naga Airport, even for mere rehabilitation and improvement. This is in stark contrast to San Jose Airport which has a budget but is not even in existence yet,” he said.
Villafuete said the Naga Airport, whose upgrading and expansion are incorporated in the 15-year plan, has always been given a budget for the past years including the P1.002B in the 2017 General Appropriation Act and P670M in 2015.
Camarines Sur Gov. Miguel Luis Villafuerte said the DoTr has downloaded to the provincial government this year P400M for the expropriation of properties affected by the Naga Airport Development Project.
Reacting to the San Jose Airport project, the younger Villafuerte said he does not interfere with the construction of the San Jose Airport but he said it makes no sense that the central business areas of Camarines Sur are Naga City and Iriga City.
“Passengers coming to Camarines Sur will still have to travel over one hour to reach their destinations. Tourism wise I believe that the new Naga Airport in Pili is a strategic location because Camsur Watersports Complex is there and it is very central for those who visit the neighboring provinces like Camarines Norte,” he said.
The younger Villafuerte said he is in constant communication with the DoTr and he is confident the Naga Airport Development Project will continue to be pushed through.