NCPO: B8bn airport plan too costly

The Airports of Thailand (AoT) will review a planned passenger screening system costing 8.3 billion baht after the junta's budget scrutinising committee found the project was too costly.

Revenue Department chief Prasong Poonthanet, in his capacity as AoT chairman, yesterday said the AoT would review a 8.3-billion-baht advance passenger processing system after an order by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO)'s state budget monitoring and scrutinising committee.

The panel, which had ordered a review, found the project was too expensive. The Office of the Auditor-General, in a letter sent recently to the AoT, also raised questions over potential problems with the project's terms of reference.

Checks on the project by the NCPO's budget scrutinising panel and the OAG would help make the project more transparent, said the AoT chairman.

He also welcomed the panel's move to examine a contract to hire a consultancy firm to design the two phases of Suvarnabhumi airport's expansion, saying the scrutiny would make the AoT feel at ease in conducting the project.

The AoT has focused on boosting its airports' capacity to handle rising numbers of passengers, particularly Phuket airport where passenger numbers had risen to 11 million people a year, he said.

The airport only has the capacity to serve 6.5 million passengers a year.

He said the AoT needs to expand its airports. The number of passengers using Don Mueang airport has also increased rapidly, he said.

On the AoT's year-end bonus payments, a shareholders meeting would decide on the issue by considering how much profit was earned by each agency to see whether they met targets.

The AoT's revenue and profits were unlikely to fall any lower than last year's figure, but the bonus may not be the same as last year, he said.

Meanwhile, the Marine Department is ready to open bidding for the Pakbara seaport project and three other seaport projects once they have received NCPO approval.

Department chief Sornsak Saensombat yesterday said studies and design plans for the Pakbara seaport project in Satun, a seaport project in Chumphon, a seaport project in Songkla and a river barge project in Ang Thong have now been completed.

The projects are awaiting Environment and Health Impact Assessment (EHIA) studies, he said.

Project procedures are expected to take two years and construction could begin in 2017.

"The Pakbara seaport project has passed an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) study, but it has to undergo an EHIA study as required by a new law,'' he said.

"After the project passes the EHIA study, we will go ahead with it. The Chumphon seaport project was earlier submitted for an EIA study, but was later switched for an EHIA study. So were the two other projects. The procedures will take time,'' he said.

If all procedures are completed, the projects will be sent to the NCPO for consideration.

If the NCPO sees the projects as urgent for the transport of goods and economic development, bids will be called as soon as the projects pass the EHIA process and are approved by the military.

The EHIA procedures could be accelerated.

A source said NCPO deputy chief ACM Prajin Juntong, who is in charge of the junta's economic affairs, recently said the country's transport development strategy for 2015-2022 includes seaport development projects covering areas in the Andaman Sea, the Gulf of Thailand and the Pasak River.

These projects will be launched next year when the budget for them is disbursed.

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