MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has urged Transport Secretary Arthur Tugade to remove some restaurants at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to make room for more seats for passengers.

In a public address late Tuesday night, Duterte said the thought of passengers standing while waiting for their flights has been bothering him “the whole night.”

“I’d like to call the attention of Secretary Tugade. Art, alam mo ‘yang airport na ‘yan, kung sinong nag-design niyan g***. Sabihin mo sa kanya, walang upuan. Iilan lang ang upuan (You know, whoever designed the airport is stupid. Tell him there are only a few seats). And what’s really worse is that mayroong restaurant diyan sa labas na malaki (there’s a huge restaurant just outside).‘Di paalisin mo ‘yung restaurant, lagyan mo ng upuan (So get rid of the restaurants and add seats),” he said.

Duterte said Tugade could start by canceling restaurants’ contracts, saying he no longer wanted to see passengers standing for long periods.

“Art, lagyan mo ng silya lahat ‘yan. Iyang restaurant diyan kung ma-terminate mo contracts (Art, add seats there. The restaurants there, if you could terminate their contracts), terminate them because I need them to seat the passengers waiting,” he said.

The President also suggested using NAIA Terminal 1 as a place where passengers could wait for their flights, especially if they were delayed.

“Wala na masyadong gumagamit ng NAIA 1. Doon mo na lang pahintayin ‘yung iba o they can check in there tapos may sakyan man ‘yan (The NAIA 1 is not being used as much. That’s where the others can wait or they can check in there since they can get a ride there). When the flight is called for the departure, dalhin na lang sila ng mga (just bring them)… Art, you provide the bus,” he said.

Duterte emphasized the need to ensure that government services are “in parity of the needs of the people.”

He noted that the lack of seats at the airport could be considered as negligence on the part of the national government.

“I am not washing my hands. This is a failure of government — neglect,” he said.

Meanwhile, Duterte also asked Interior Secretary Eduardo Año to gather locally stranded individuals (LSIs) camping near NAIA and provide them with food and shelter as they wait for their flights.

“Gen. Año, to gather all na naghihintay ng pasa — na walang matulugan, walang matirahan at nandiyan sa labas ng NAIA or whatever sa airport (gather all those waiting, those without a place to sleep, a place to stay and are camping outside NAIA), you will be transported to a place,” he said.

Reports showed that the passengers were either LSIs who got stuck in Metro Manila due to limited transportation or those who work overseas.

Passengers were even forced to sleep under an expressway for days while waiting for a chance to get a plane or bus ride.

The national government has begun assisting LSIs by bringing them to the Villamor Airbase Elementary School and the Philippine State College of Aeronautics to receive food and accommodation as they wait for available transportation. (PNA)