It is time to close the chapter on the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) — three-peat World’s Worst Airport from 2011 to 2013 awarded by travel website Sleeping in Airports. Lax security at NAIA was highlighted in 2013 when a town mayor of Zamboanga del Sur was killed in broad daylight together with three others by gunmen at the departure area of Terminal 3. In 2015, NAIA gained further notoriety when the “tanim bala” modus operandi was concocted and discovered to be an inside job among airport employees.
All these happened during the administration of the namesake of the person being honored by the Philippines’ main gateway to the international world. President Noy Aquino did nothing to protect his very name in his six years as Commander-in-Chief.
This is why House Bill 7031, filed by Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte, House Committee on Appropriations chair Eric Go Yap and incoming Speaker Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, is a timely initiative.
Not only does this erase the shortcomings of the previous administration and removes the one-sided political reference to a family backed up by elite oligarchs and Western superpowers, it gives foremost emphasis on Philippine culture and language.
HB 7031 proposes the renaming of NAIA to the Paliparang Pandaigdig ng Pilipinas. While the pronouncement or the new name may be a mouthful, its acronym of PPP is easy to say. We likewise remind readers that in English, the airport can be called Philippine International Airport or Manila International Airport, whichever floats your boat.
The backlash online reveals the lack of understanding of netizens who are quick to draw and fire blanks. No basis in stating that this initiative proves misplaced priorities of the government. For the unaware, bills calling for the renaming of national roads, public schools, government hospitals and local parks are multifariously filed in Congress. No massive amounts of public funds are used except for the paper to produce the documents that brings it to the President’s desk, and expenses in changing the signs if ever these bills are signed into law.
Always on the lookout for something to criticize, Sen. Leila De Lima was among those who castigated HB 7031. In her recent memo from her detention cell, De Lima said, “Ano na namang kabalbalan ito? (What is this madness?) The lawmakers pushing for it has a distorted sense of nationalism, if at all.” In a display of her unwavering sense of parliamentary courtesy, De Lima added that the initiative is “devoid of any salutary objective… plain and simple politics. And stupidity.”
“Stupidity” is the word used by De Lima, just to emphasize. Perhaps, she would like us to forever remember her tyrannical act committed in 2011 at the NAIA during her term as Justice secretary, when she defied the most lawful order of the Supreme Court and barred former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband Mike Arroyo from leaving the country for medical purposes. The political spectacle all happened in NAIA, a move that concretized her yellowness, among the factors that propelled her to Senate.
She should have been disbarred for refusing to follow the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by the SC en banc. In justifying her actions, De Lima then said in an interview, “We cannot be applying general rules all the time, we cannot be applying general principles, general propositions all the time. The court always has to take into account specific and peculiar accounts and circumstances attendant in a particular case.” In other words, she saw herself higher than all 15 Justices of the SC.
On the matter of politics, people should be reminded on how the Aquino administration renamed the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport to Clark International Airport back in 2012. It bears emphasis also that NAIA was originally named Manila International Airport, but was renamed during the time of former President Corazon Aquino in 1987 in honor of her husband. Where is the delicadeza there?
Vice President Leni Robredo lamented that HB 7031 is ill-timed. On the contrary, the timing is perfect while the Philippines is gaining momentum for a rebound once COVID-19 subsides. With the priority given by this administration, tanim bala is a thing of the past and the airport is no longer considered among the world’s worst. The new name is symbolic of our country’s flight to economic success, which was unfortunately stalled due to the pandemic.