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CebuPac seeks establishment of new international airport

MANILA, Philippines - Budget airline Cebu Pacific is pushing for the establishment of a new international airport as the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is already operating at full capacity.

Cebu Pacific president Lance Gokongwei said the “crossed” runways of the country’s premier international gateway serve as a “natural barrier” preventing additional flight capacity.

He also pointed out that the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is undertaking the P1.9-billion retrofitting of the NAIA Terminal 3, the P1.3-billion rehabilitation of NAIA Terminal 1, and the P91.4-million NAIA runway optimization project.

“Within Manila, there are projects right now to improve capacities in both Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. I think progressively the authorities are working on improved processes and navigational aid which may increment to the improved capacity by a couple of movements,” he added.

The NAIA Terminal 1 was built in 1981 with two intersecting runways and a design capacity of 4.5 million passengers per year. The gateway now has four passenger terminal buildings with a total design capacity of 30 million passengers per year.

NAIA exceeded its design capacity for the four terminals as early as 2012 as passengers reached 32 million due to the surge in tourist arrivals and improvement in the country’s economy.

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The agency said aircraft movement, both landing and takeoff, hit a high of 255,000 in 2011. This prompted aviation authorities to cap the number of daily aircraft movements at 40 as it decided to move general aviation flights to the Sangley airport in Cavite.

But Gokongwei said there is a need to build a new international airport to cope with the expanding domestic output of the Philippines.

Economic managers see the country’s domestic output as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) growing between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent this year from 7.2 percent last year.

“For a country that is growing such as the Philippines, we probably need to build a second airport,” Gokongwei said.

The DOTC is initially looking at Sangley Point in Cavite and Laguna de Bay as the possible site of a new international gateway.

Both locations would entail massive reclamation as the new international airport requires at least 2,000 hectares and could be under the public-private partnership scheme as the government is veering away from unsolicited proposals.

The DOTC wants to put into operation a new international airport by 2027, with the joint development of the congested NAIA and the Clark International Airport (CIA) in Pampanga.

A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency showed that the number of passengers in Greater Capital Region would hit 106.7 million by 2040 from 31.88 million in 2012.

It expects the number of passengers from the National Capital Region as well as Central Luzon and Calabarzon regions would rise steadily to 49.8 million in 2020, 75 million in 2030 and 106.7 million in 2040.

To meet the expected volume, the government has identified two viable options that involve the expansion of CIA and the development of a new international airport roughly 20 to 30 minutes from Metro Manila.

One option entails the closure and sale of NAIA by 2030 and the new international airport be operational by 2027 to provide 78 percent of the required passenger terminal building while the international gateway in Clark, Pampanga would handle 22 percent.

The other option allows NAIA to co-exist alongside ClA and the new airport up to 2040 and beyond.

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