GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 27 Sept) – The Regional Development Council (RDC) of Region 12 or the Soccsksargen Region has recommended the conduct of more public consultations over the proposed P110 adjustment in the terminal fee at the city airport here.
Alfredo Hebrona Jr., chair of RDC-12’s infrastructure and utilities development committee (InfraCom), said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) needs to consult more local stakeholders before making a final decision on the proposal, which would raise the current P40 terminal fee to P150.
He said the consultations should cover residents and officials of areas within the region that are served by the airport.
“The technical working group for the General Santos City airport development must specifically involve affected stakeholders in nearby provinces and cities in firming up the master plan for the airport,” Hebrona said.
The city airport, which is classified by CAAP as an alternate international airport, mainly serves the “greater area” of Region 12 that covers this city and nearby provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani.
Leading domestic carrier Cebu Pacific presently maintains three regular passenger and cargo flights daily from this city to Manila and another daily flight to Cebu.
Philippine Airlines has one regular daily flight from this city to Manila while AirPhil Express offers daily regular flights to Manila and Cebu.
Allan Punay, CAAP manager here, said they earlier proposed for the adjustment of the city airport’s terminal fee to P150 to cope with its mounting operational costs and fund its other development requirements.
He said the proposed fee increase, which is now pending before the CAAP board, was the first since the airport opened in 1996.
Based on CAAP’s records, the city airport posted a total income of around P25 million last year based on its terminal fee collections and other charges levied to airline companies and its tenant stores.
But the airport’s total operational expenses last year reached around P28 million, making its operations partly subsidized by the agency.
In its Regional Development Plan for 2011-2016, the RDC-12 stressed the need for the immediate upgrading and improvement of the city airport.
“Despite being categorized as an international airport, the General Santos Airport still lacks facilities to make it at par with international standards,” it said.
The council specifically cited that that passengers presently have to deal with a lot of inconvenience in boarding and disembarking the airplane and walk some length under the heat of the sun.
It said that even the trolleys which are supposed to be a necessity for moving luggage are used by passengers for a fee.
“The airport needs a jet bridge, an enclosed, movable connector which extends from the airport terminal gate to the airplane that will allow passengers to board and disembark without having to go outside,” the RDC-12 said.
Trolleys and other airport facilities should be made available for free considering that passengers already pay terminal fees,” the council said. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)