“Another airport that can be considered a better alternative and more modern than NAIA is a long-term solution. If, God forbid, another accident happens, and we don’t have a twin airport, what then? The consequences could be worse than what we saw,” Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito said.
Can Clark or Bulacan airport fix NAIA woes?
Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - August 21, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Senators have renewed their call for the development of easily accessible international gateways that can serve as alternatives to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which was paralyzed for almost two days last week after a Chinese passenger jet blocked the main runway.

Sen. Joseph Victor Ejercito, vice chairman of the Senate committee on public services, said the NAIA is already handling 42 million passengers a year or way beyond its annual capacity of 30 million passengers.

“Another airport that can be considered a better alternative and more modern than NAIA is a long-term solution. If, God forbid, another accident happens, and we don’t have a twin airport, what then? The consequences could be worse than what we saw,” he said.

San Miguel Corp., which has proposed to develop a new four-runway airport—dubbed the New Manila International Airport (NMIA)—in Bulacan said it could commence operations in as early as six years upon approval of the $15-billion project.

The business group Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) is also calling on the government to fast-track the approval of a private sector proposal to upgrade the NAIA to address congestion—this being the most cost-effective and fastest solution to the severe congestion at the Manila airport.

The NAIA Consortium—composed of Aboitiz InfraCapital, AC Infrastructure Holdings, Alliance Global Group, Asia’s Emerging Dragon, Filinvest Development, JG Summit Holdings and Metro Pacific Investments—has secured an original proponent status (OPS) for its offer to upgrade the main international gateway for about P106 billion for a concession period of 15 years.

An OPS would give the consortium the right to match offers from other parties when a Swiss challenge is conducted for the project.

Ejercito said it is vital that the new airport or the new terminal at the Clark International Airport (CIA) should be accompanied by an intermodal transport connection terminal, including a high-speed railway.

He said the construction of phase 1 of the new terminal at Clark—budgeted with P17.6 billion—is now 15 percent complete and expected to open in 2020.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III urged the government to “go full blast” with the development of other air transport hubs such as the CIA, stressing that: “We can’t dillydally anymore. I made the same call in 2016. Let’s not wait for another airplane incident which hassled thousands of passengers to realize there should be an urgent and comprehensive government plan to decongest the NAIA.”

He said the NAIA can serve southern Metro Manila and Southern Luzon to Bicol while Clark can address the needs of passengers from northern Metro Manila and northern Philippines, and that both hubs may share the handling of travel and logistics flow to the Visayas and Mindanao.

The underutilized airport in the former US military base at Clark in Pampanga has an area of 2,367 hectares, compared to NAIA’s 700 hectares.

Pimentel pointed out that with NAIA’s single runway, flight delays average 45 minutes per day aside from monstrous traffic jams to and from the airport.

He noted that Clark could eventually service “flight transfers of international passengers, such as our OFWs, who need to go home to their families in the Visayas and Mindanao.”

“If you’re going to the province anyway via a connecting flight and you don’t need to stay in Manila, Clark International could be a better transfer point. Proposals such as these can work and should be tried,” he said, adding that the development of Clark should be a core component of the government’s Build, Build, Build program.

As the upgrade of NAIA is being undertaken, the MAP said a concurrent expansion of Clark would ensure that future air traffic bottlenecks are prevented.

“The MAP urges the adoption of an airport complementation strategy whereby the existing NAIA and Clark international airports are developed and operated as an integrated system with the two airports complementing each other, ideally with an express rail link in place,” the group said, adding that it opposes the closure of NAIA as this would be a “very drastic and counterproductive move.” – With Louella Desiderio, Iris Gonzales

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