NAIA in numbers
EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) - August 23, 2018 - 12:00am

Once in a while, this country descends into an insanely twisted pandemonium that is so bizarre you’d think you’re drifting off into a somnambulant spell.

 It’s exactly what happened a week ago when a carrier from our beloved China skidded into the muck. More than 200 disrupted flights and thousands of stranded passengers later, the situation is slowly getting back to normal with just the signature pockets of chaos and the usual flight delays.

 But another disaster is waiting to happen. And the result is the same – bedlam, mayhem, disrupted lives.

 No, I’m not trying to be the prophet of doom. I’m just the town crier warning of what can go wrong – again. I recently looked at the numbers and they are stark and telling.

 Leafing through a document on the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), I found the situation alarming.

 According to the data, if our economy grows by at least six percent in the next five years, passenger arrivals will reach 49 million by 2020. This is way above NAIA’s annual capacity of 35 million passengers.

 Expect the numbers to grow exponentially over the next few decades — 77 million passengers by 2030 and 107 million by 2040.

 The runway capacity is overstretched — the capacity is 45 aircraft movements per hour, but in 2015 alone, there were 55 movements per hour. By 2022, as more tourists come, there will be 30 additional movements per hour.

 By 2022, demand will double and outstrip the number of aircraft movement. The projected demand is 87 movements per hour.

 Flight delays have become inevitable, estimated at P1.1 billion annual loss for airlines at present. By 2020, the cost is estimated to soar to P3.8 billion.

 Eye opener

Transportation Secretary Art Tugade said the incident was an eye-opener. New airports must be built, he said.

 Indeed, as I write this, calls to have a new airport are mounting. I very much agree. Once and for all, we should really get the ball rolling for a new gateway, whether it’s in Sangley or in Bulacan, or both.

 But tycoon Ramon “RSA” believes his proposed New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan can cut the construction timeline by half as it would not require sea reclamation compared to Sangley Point in Cavite.

 Because of this, SMC can commence operations of the airport in six years upon approval of the $15-billion project.

 NMIA will be capable of handling 60 aircraft movements per hour per runway compared to NAIA’s current runway capacity of 45 movements per hour. And it can have four runways.

 “Our proposal is a game-changer, “ RSA said.

 Fix NAIA first

 But while we’re heading towards that direction, it is a must that we fix NAIA first, making it the interim airport while we’re building new ones. We can’t just let NAIA die while waiting for the other airport projects to materialize. Let’s get it out of the coma, revive it, and let it function efficiently as we transition to another premier airport.

 The super consortium can’t wait to get started. We should let them.

Covered walkway between Makati and Cubao

 Meantime, as we improve our airports, we should also improve connectivity around the metropolis.

 A letter sender, engineer Alex Serrano, shared with me his idea: a modern looking air conditioned elevated covered walkway from Makati to Cubao, connected to networks of similar walkways within the CBDs along the way.

 “Travelers could be enticed to make a walking tour from Makati to Cubao, resting at strategic areas where the air spaces between the MRT3 Stations and adjacent buildings could be transformed into comfortable, but beautiful dining structures. For example we could showcase the food delicacies of Luzon in the Makati area, that of the Visayas in the Crossing area, and that of Mindanao in the Cubao Area. The concept and operations of the newly opened Filipino cultural dining experience in the Double Dragon establishment at the corner of Macapagal Blvd. and EDSA if adapted here, would be a traveler’s delight,” he said. 

He hopes Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat would be able to push for the project and gather support from the rich businessmen owning the establishments along the route of the project.

 There’s no lack of ideas to make the Philippines better, whether it’s solving the NAIA mess or the traffic woes. It’s now up to the government to act on the proposals for the sake of this “darling economy.” 

 Let’s not wait for another pandemonium – from the Latin word demonium, which refers to an abode of demons  – because the demons, their shadows, their human forms and their doppelgangers might become so familiar with this country and live with the rest of us. When that happens, we Filipinos might get so used to them and the chaos and the disorder they bring. And that, more than anything else, would be the real tragedy.  

Iris Gonzales’s e-mail address is

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