GenSan city council asks CAAP to upgrade int’l airport

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/07 Oct.) — Upset with what it considers poor quality of services and the lack of standard amenities at the international airport here, the city council has urged the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) to prioritize the development and upgrading of the facility.

In a resolution, the council specifically asked CAAP to immediately upgrade the physical features and amenities of the city airport’s main terminal building and its other vital structures, which have fast deteriorated in the last several years.

“(CAAP should make it) at par with the international airports in other highly-urbanized cities in the country,” it said.

City Councilor Shandee Theresa Llido-Pestaño, who authored the resolution, said the airport’s terminal building mainly needs a major upgrade to keep pace with the growing number of passengers and flights that are using the facility daily.

“The airport now caters to thousands of passengers so CAAP should set the necessary improvements to meet the needs of travelers, especially in terms of their safety, convenience and comfort,” she said.

The official noted that the security inspection at the airport has remained on manual mode as the replacement of its damaged x-ray or baggage screening machines has remained pending, seven months after they broke down.

She said the manual inspection has been causing long queues at the airport’s entrance causing delays in the check-in of most passengers.

Pestaño said airline passengers have also complained about the airport terminal slowly becoming crowded due to the increasing number of flights and with very few chairs to accommodate the volume of waiting passengers; its poorly maintained comfort rooms; unkempt building structure; and, limited shops, food stalls and restaurants inside the pre-departure area.

“These (complaints) are attributes of a low-grade airport,” she stressed.

Pestaño said CAAP should immediately address these concerns being the government agency responsible for the implementation of policies on civil aviation to ensure safe, economical and efficient air travel.

It should give proper attention on the need to improve the airport’s amenities, specifically those under the check-in, arrival, transfers, shopping, security and departure services, she said.

She said the agency should also pursue the provision of advanced amenities that would eventually transform the airport into a world-class aviation gateway such as internet facilities, best restaurants, electronic carts, elegant shops, nursing rooms, prayer rooms, banks and foreign currency exchange counters and airline lounges.

“These will make the airport at par with its counterparts, become globally competitive and eventually help attract more tourists and investors to the area,” she added.

Allan Punay, CAAP manager here, earlier assured that agency has been continually working on the improvement of the airport’s facilities and services but said these initiatives could take some time.

He said they have been addressing the concerns raised by some sectors regarding the airport, among them the need to put up a new terminal building; acquisition of new x-ray or baggage screening machines; provision of new trolley/pushcarts that will be free of charge to passengers; setting of improved security scheme for passenger inspections; and, the reduction of the taxi rates from the airport to the city proper.

The Department of Transportation and Communication central office opened last May the bidding for the “supply, installation, testing and commissioning” of passenger and baggage screening equipment for the city airport, OTS central office and 31 other airports in the country.

The agency said it is “further improving air travel safety and security by procuring a properly layered passenger, baggage and cargo screening system for various airports” in the country.

The approved budget for the acquisition of the new equipment, which comprises 401 units, is around P297 million.

For the city airport, which is classified by CAAP as an alternate international airport, the proposed equipment includes a unit of final security checkpoint x-ray, a walk through metal detector, two hand held metal detectors and a cargo security checkpoint x-ray. (MindaNews)