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AITOpinion, Anna Tayag

NAIA Rejection

(From left) Budji Layug, Kenneth Cobonpue, and Royal Pineda. Photo courtesy of

Anna Tayag | Opinion

Months before NAIA-1 was labeled as one the “World’s Worst Airports”, cabinet members of the Aquino administration invited world- renowned designers Kenneth Cobonpue, Budji Layug, and architect Royal Pineda to team up in the efforts to recover and improve the Philippine brand.

See the Cobonpue-Layug-Pineda NAIA proposal

However, DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas argued that the design presented by the Cobonpue team for the NAIA-1 rehabilitation has missed function and is just something that is pretty, thus the snub on the 8-month pro bono work of the trio. This followed the agency’s decision to grant the project instead to Leandro V. Locsin and Associates, the original designers of the airport.

DOTC justified its play on the Cobonpue team by saying that the original designers have an advantage because they have the original blue prints and can base a cost-effective, minimal interruption rehabilitation process with the master plan on hand. See DOTC clarifies ‘rejection’ of Cobonpue’s work

Red flags anyone?

First and foremost, the Cobonpue-Layug-Pineda team is a pool of internationally acclaimed designers who would never risk losing their much deserved reputations by presenting a design with no function. The transportation secretary’s remark on the team’s months’ worth of legwork is nothing but a spineless insult. To think that these designers would compromise function over form is an offense on the designers’ integrity as artists. Their several recognitions here and abroad must at least account for considering how the aesthetics of the creation can marry its functionality as a utility. Who is Kenneth Cobonpue?

Pineda said function will be main priority. “It’s not just about adding toilets and rectifying the look, but also verifying the structural integrity of the building.”

Also, granting the project to LVL for the reason that they “had a distinct advantage over any other architectural or engineering firm in the country because its founder, the late Locsin, was Terminal 1’s original designer” is preposterous, if not ridiculous. The late designer? Leandro V. Locsin, dead since 1994?

“This Leandro Locsin now is not the same Leandro Locsin that designed the airport 30 years ago,” Cobonpue said, noting that his group’s expertise should be at par with, if not on a higher level than, LVL’s.

Cobonpue also said that his group’s design was done in coordination with airport engineers. “We also had the original blueprints and plans in front of us when we were making this.”

Cobonpue’s team proposed a budget of 1 billion pesos to completely refurbish and improve the internal and external facilities of the terminal which can all be implemented in a year. This is much lower than the government-approved 1.16 billion rehabilitation plan to undertake structural and aesthetical improvements just inside the terminal. See full details of the proposal

The Changi Airport of Singapore, consistently placing as the number one airport in the world, was also hired to give insights as to how functional designs and passenger flows can be improved. Shelving the bayanihan effort from its own citizens which was given for free wastes the passion that was put into the project.

DOTC claimed that the inputs from Cobonpue’s team was unsolicited. In the end, Cobonpue has refused to join the bidding for the project. They said that the government can still use their design, as long as they will be recognized as the source of it.

“Hindi ko alam sino ang nagpaasa sa kanila,” Mar Roxas told in an interview with ANC. “Pero malinaw ang konsensya ko. Sabi ko, thank you, we’ll take it into consideration,” adding that he acted in a “prudent, deliberate, correct manner” regarding the issue.


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