Two lower house lawmakers have filed measures to rename the country’s main gateway, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and, perhaps, erase the legacy of the late dictator’s nemesis.
One district representative wanted to change the international airport’s name to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr.’s disgraced father and namesake.
Another member of the House of Representative from a party-list group suggested that the airport’s name be changed to a more generic Manila International Airport.
Vloggers and social media content creators jumped in to support the two proposals, giving credit to the late dictator for building and developing the 45-hectare airport in Pasay and Paranaque City.
The international airport, which served the capital’s 13 million residents, has two runways and handled nearly 48 million international and domestic passengers in 2019.
Negros Oriental’s third district congressman Arnolfo Teves Jr. got it wrong when he attributed to the late dictator, Ferdinand Edralin Marcos Sr., the “idea and execution of the said noble project.”
Marcos was credited for issuing an executive order to develop the gateway and was instrumental to building a modern passenger terminal during his term, but the airport has been in existence long before he became president.
Its two runways were built before he was elected president in 1965. Two new terminals — 2 and 3 — were conceptualized and built under former president Fidel Ramos. Terminal 3 was opened for commercial use in 2008, delayed by technical and legal issues. The second terminal, which was dedicated to international and domestic flights of the country’s carrier, Philippine Air Lines, was opened in 1998.
The airport was renamed Ninoy Aquino during the term of President Cory Aquino, in honor of the late senator who was assassinated at the airport’s tarmac in August 1983, an event that started the descent of the dictator’s power and culminated in his ouster in the February 1986 military-backed popular uprising.
NAIA actually began operating in 1948, a year before Marcos was elected to Congress as Ilocos Norte representative, his first elective position. Before the Second World War, the airport was a military base, called Nichols Air Base, built in 1919 for the United States Army air services. It was also used by the Japanese as an air base during its three-year occupation from 1942 to 1945.
The US military regained control of the air base before it was made into a civilian and commercial airport, using its nearly 2.5-kilometer runway. A much longer 3.7-kilometer runway was built in 1954. Its control tower and passenger terminal were built in 1956.
This will demolish Congressman Teves’ reasoning for his proposed bill. It also belies the propaganda and disinformation spread by vloggers and social media content creators.
The first commercial airport in the Manila area was in Grace Park, Caloocan, which opened in 1935. Two years later, a bigger and more modern gateway was built in Makati, developed by a New Zealand-born businessman Laurie Reuben Neilson.
Built on the 32-hectare property of Don Enrique Zobel de Ayala, called Hacienda San Pedro de Macati, it has two runways, which are now Paseo de Roxas and Ayala Avenue.
In 1948, the Makati airport was abandoned and was relocated to the much larger Nichols AirField, which was later renamed Villamor Air Base in honor of World War II aviator, Captain Jesus Villamor, who gallantly fought the Japanese in aerial combat, shooting down two zero fighters, in December 1941.
Heroes deserved to be honored by naming key and major government installations, including international airports, after them, but the dictator was not a hero. Marcos does not deserve to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
In other countries, the memories of disgraced leaders have been erased. Their monuments have been taken down but in the Philippines, there are efforts to rehabilitate and revive the image of the fallen dictator. Some even distort historical facts to make Marcos a hero.
Marcos stole from the Philippine government, siphoning portions of the Japanese war reparations and stashing the money in his own private bank accounts abroad.
Nearly 10,000 people were jailed, tortured, killed, and involuntary disappeared. The number of human rights victims under Marcos was only surpassed by former president Rodrigo Duterte who could face possible investigation by the International Court of Justice.
Renaming the international airport in Marcos’ honor is absolutely unnecessary. It is a waste of time and resources. There is more important legislation needed to boost the country’s economy which has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic and the raging conflict in Eastern Europe.
Filipinos can go on with their lives without changing the airport’s name, but economic measures are urgently needed to cushion the impact of the war in the Ukraine and the pandemic.
Renaming the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at this time of a looming energy and food crisis is an insensitive political move. It smacked of political patronage. The dictator’s son still has to prove he is worthy to be president.
Bongbong must resist temptations to follow in his father’s footsteps. There are many sycophants around him. He should not listen to them because these people will bring him down.
Bongbong should shoot down these bills and focus on tackling the nation’s problems.