Regulators on Thursday began moving with a renewed sense of urgency on the matter of developing premier airport facilities in the country that would serve as its gateway.
This was stressed in a broadcast television interview by Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya who acknowledged the need to operate premier airports as gateways to a country aspiring to serve the needs of some five million foreign tourists just this year alone plus millions more Filipinos who travel domestically by air also.
According to Abaya, government planners look to decide with finality whether or not the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and rival facilities at the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) were, singly or in tandem, developed as premier gateways.
Whether or not there was only one gateway airport, or whether or not both could serve as gateway facilities at the same time, is an issue that needs to be addressed quickly, Abaya said.
"Should there be one or two gateways? Do we close NAIA in the future for some other airport?" Abaya said rhetorically in the interview.
He however acknowledged the greater goal was to arrive at a "policy decision" whether or not one or two airports would serve as gateway facilities for the Philippines in this case.
"What is important is a policy decision on whether or not we have a single premier airport or we have twins," Abaya stressed.
He indicated the policy decision should come out soon and that in the interim the government prepares to take out a loan for about P1 billion to help it execute a much needed airport modernization program.
Arriving at a policy decision and finding the financial resources to back up and execute the plans are key issues needing resolution before the Department of Transportation and Communication elevate the matter before President Aquino for approval, Abaya added.
He also said the CIAC was the country's fastest growing airport whose outdated facilities needed rehabilitation alongside that of NAIA's.
"We are finalizing the policy endorsement and rehabilitation plans for both airports before we elevate the matter to President Aquino," Abaya said.