PHILIPSBURG—Leader of the United People’s Party and Member of Parliament the Honorable Rolando Brison has rejected the plans proposed by former Finance Minister Perry Geerlings to start construction of Princess Juliana International Airport in November 2020 saying PJIA reconstruction must not be met with further delays.
Brison has further stated that the lack of transparency in regards to this process of financing the reconstruction of the Airport is a total disrespect of the duly elected members of the Parliament of St. Maarten.
“I think it’s a total shame that information is only now being shared with MP’s, when the Dutch Government, Schiphol, the PJIA CEO and many others have had access to this information for a very long time.” He said, “Going forward, I believe we must stop treating the parliament with such disrespect, and provide us with the full information so that we can make informed decisions and deliberations.”
The presentation made in Parliament on Monday included information on the proposed start date of reconstruction to begin in November of 2020. Brison says this approach ignores the interruption it would create at the beginning of what is usually the peak Tourism season of the year. He is concerned that the already fragile tourism economy could not be further interrupted with heavy construction at the time when most businesses would be eagerly anticipating the increased airlifts after they would have dropped in the summer.
“I am calling on the Government and all other stakeholders to have construction started by the latest March 31 2020. Having construction start just ahead of the summer season where airlift is lower, is both logistically and logically the best way to go about it, contrary to the very illogical and ineffective proposed start date of Late November,” said Bryson.
He said his party would only be in support of project plans for the airport reconstruction that show construction beginning immediately after the peak of the 2019 tourist season. According to Bryson, failure to provide accurate information in the past has severely hurt St. Maarten’s MP’s ability to provide the necessary support to the Government.
“We can’t wait that long, we need action now,” stated Brison during Monday’s debate in Parliament regarding discuss the reconstruction of the Airport more than two years after it was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Brison, in his presentation to the other members of Parliament, stated that he was pleased to receive the information he had been asking for finally. “It was on April 24 2018 when I requested that government provide the full dossier of documentation related to the airport financing and reconstruction.”
Brison has proposed that construction begins by March 2020 and that the signing of the financing agreement does not hamper plans for St. Maarten to obtain US Pre-Clearance. “US Pre-Clearance is the most viable long term competitive advantage St. Maarten can have, particularly over neighbouring islands who continue to expand their plans for airlift.”
He also says that the financing proposal should not infringe on the ability of PJIA to seek further financing, such as buying out our bondholders. He also insists “all airport employees must be retained with salaries and employee benefits remaining intact.”