For all the stupid things President BS Aquino v. 3.0 says to provide fodder for online and offline critics, it is actually rare to catch him in a flat lie. Rare, but apparently not impossible:
Among his otherwise-forgettable comments made during his appearance in locations that are not the City of Tacloban to mark the first anniversary of Typhoon Yolanda, N/A revealed a plan to move the Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport in Tacloban to a new location. The new airport, which would cost approximately P12 billion to build, would probably be located in neighboring Palo, which is coincidentally ruled by Aquino favorites the Petilla clan and not the relatives of Imelda Marcos like Tacloban is, although Malacanang naturally denied politics had anything to do with the idea.
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Aquino’s rationale was that the airport would either require a safer location or extensive work, such as a new seawall, to protect it from future storms; to forestall the obvious question, “If that’s the case, why don’t you just build a seawall?” Aquino claimed that the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) had shown him a study recommending that the airport be moved.
Although the local news media reported comments from Mayor Romualdez refuting Aquino’s claim, what should be the SOP step for reporters and editors to “call the agency being discussed by politicians with a personal ax to grind against each other and ask what’s really going on” was apparently overlooked, or so the nice lady I spoke to at JICA’s local office hinted when I called over there this afternoon.
It’s that kind of non-linear thinking — you know, looking up a phone number and making a phone call — that separates us columnists from the unwashed masses.
In any event, JICA did confirm that they have conducted exactly zero studies on the Tacloban Airport and have issued the corresponding number of recommendations about it (which is also zero). Instead, what they have informally suggested is that a “hazard assessment” of the airport be carried out, presumably with an eye towards identifying what sort of protective structures or other modifications could be done to reduce risks from typhoons.
“We talked about this [the hazard assessment, and the absence of any other recommendation concerning the airport] in a forum yesterday,” the JICA official explained, referring to the 2nd National Conference and Workshop of Philippine-Japan Collaborative Project (NCW), part of the Coastal Ecosystem Conservation and Adaptive Management, held Monday (in other words, two or three days after N/A’s ill-advised comments) at the University of the Philippines.
“Relocating the airport is entirely up to the government, we did not recommend that,” she added, just in case anything about the issue was still a little fuzzy.
Whether Aquino’s lie about JICA support for an idea that everyone here, to their credit, instantly recognized as childish political bullying will draw any sort of response from the development agency or the Japanese government — as N/A’s ill-mannered attempts to put words in other government’s mouths have in the past — remains to be seen; that question was beyond the purview of the JICA official I spoke to.