NAIA privatization is a bad idea

Once the NAIA is privatized, its officials will not be public officers covered by the anti-graft law.

Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito is right. Privatizing the Ninoy Aquino International Airport or NAIA is a bad idea and will bring nothing good to the general population.

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. agrees.

Ejercito’s statement came after Senator Grace Poe demanded the privatization of the NAIA following the recent glitch in airport operations that closed Philippine airspace for one day.

According to Ejercito, “NAIA’s privatization will not be good at all. We should have already learned from our mistakes of the past.”

He pointed out that several former government facilities are now owned or controlled by private enterprises. Vital industries, airports included, he said, should remain under the ownership and control of the national government.

Among the vital facilities now under private control cited by Ejercito are the plants of the National Power Corporation, the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, the National Steel Corporation and Fort Bonifacio.

He lamented that their privatization did not benefit the country.

In particular, Ejercito scored the privatization of the NGCP, an enterprise co-owned and controlled by the State Grid Corporation of China. Since the NGCP controls power distribution in the country, the Philippines is at the mercy of the communist government in Beijing.

Past commentaries published in the Daily Tribune revealed that the NGCP had been circumventing its own charter, which prohibits full control of management to Chinese individuals.

Political analysts say that since China’s illegal expansionist activities in the West Philippine Sea do not sit well with the Philippine government, Beijing can easily intimidate Manila into acquiescence by ordering the NGCP to stop its operations and thereby paralyze power distribution throughout the country.

The privatization of Fort Bonifacio during the administration of President Fidel Ramos (1992-1998) was another terrible idea.

Under past presidential administrations, including that of President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., Fort Bonifacio was a military reservation. It was strategically located in metropolitan Manila, and this made the immediate deployment of soldiers throughout Luzon possible in the event of war.

Fort Bonifacio also provided decent homes to soldiers defending the Republic against threats to it. The soldiers lost their homes after Fort Bonifacio was privatized. Ironically, an ex-general like Ramos caused the eviction of his fellow soldiers from their homes in Fort Bonifacio.

The proceeds from the sale of Fort Bonifacio were supposed to be spent on the acquisition of modern jets and ships for the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Obviously, the money went elsewhere, to the prejudice of our national security.

Fort Bonifacio is now the pricey real estate called Bonifacio Global City. Only private businessmen, not the government, truly benefited from the privatization.

There are legal aspects that must be carefully studied in the proposal to privatize the NAIA. For starters, once the NAIA is privatized, its officials will not be public officers covered by the anti-graft law. Unless they act in concert with corrupt government employees, private persons cannot be held publicly accountable.

The importance of the NAIA to the public cannot be denied. Privatizing the NAIA will mean unaccountable private personnel running a facility imbued with a great amount of public interest. That is a recipe for an administrative nightmare.

Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno supports the privatization of the NAIA, despite the opposition registered by President Marcos.

Incidentally, Diokno has not yet explained why, when he was still the boss of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, he left the BSP with a horrendous backlog of tens of thousands of administrative cases the public had filed against erring banking institutions.

Despite that gigantic backlog, Diokno was the highest-paid government official in 2020 and 2021. According to the Commission on Audit, Diokno received P41.811-million in 2021, which was more than double his total income in 2020. Diokno drew a salary much higher than that of his boss, the President of the Philippines. Why?

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