MANILA, December 11, 2003 (STAR) Terminal fees for domestic flights from Manila will double starting next month, but charges for international routes will remain unchanged, Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manger Edgardo Manda said yesterday.

From Jan. 1, passengers flying out of Manila to other points in the country will have to pay P200 or a 100 percent increase from current charges. The international charge remains unchanged at P550 ($10).

Manda said the terminal fee increase will bring in an extra P230 million each year, which will be used to help the airport pay maturing debts and recover substantial expenses incurred and will be incurred in the upgrading and rehabilitation of airport facilities.

From 2004 to 2008, the MIAA will be paying P842 million yearly, inclusive of principal and interest, to the Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund (OECF) for financing the construction of the NAIA Centennial Terminal II, said Manda. And from 2009 to 2023, it is expected to pay another P617 million annually.

In a press interview in Pasay City, Manda explained that since 1998, the MIAA has not implemented any airport tax increase despite inflation. But costs for maintenance of airport facilities have already doubled, he said.

He disclosed that of the present P100 collected from each departing domestic passenger at the old Manila Domestic Airport and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Centennial Terminal II, P15 is remitted to the National Commission on Anti-Hijacking and Terrorism (NACAHT) through the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) while P85 is retained by MIAA.

Manda is appealing to the public to understand why an increase is inevitable.

"We hope that passengers will keep an open mind. We only want to give them the best that we can offer with the resources available to us," he said.

Toll Rollback Urged

Meanwhile, the increase in toll rates along the North Luzon Expressway was denounced yesterday by Rep. Wilhelmino Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, saying that it was a clear "insensitivity to the growing hardships of our people."

In a privileged speech at the House of Representatives, Sy-Alvarado said that "the increase comes at a time when another utility firm, Meralco, succeeded in petitioning the government for a 12-centavo hike per kilowatt hour."

He, however, pointed out that the 84-kilometer expressway is a major infrastructure network that serves millions of commuters and is a vital element to the industrial centers of central and northern Luzon.

The solon asked why the Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC), which manages the tollway, will ask for a seven-centavo per kilometer increase in toll fees "when it was practically doing nothing other than collection and minor traffic management."

He further explained that the toll fee hike would not result in increased convenience in terms of road maintenance from the PNCC. "That is now being taken care of by the Manila North Tollways Corp. and Leighton Corp., its concessionaire and construction arm, respectively." With AFP

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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