Clark Int’l Airport Holds Key for PH to Reap Rewards of Ballooning Air Traffic


Conclusion

Developing the Clark International Airport as a premier global gateway is a shared responsibility—meaning there should be concerted efforts and coordination between the government and the private sector—as its success would mean the decongestion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), a development that would be felt across sectors.

Aside from developing land transportation, developing a new runway and building support infrastructure, government agencies must also open satellite offices near the area to make the processing of travel documents for overseas Filipino workers faster.

“Most of the passengers [who] fly out of Clark are overseas workers. We wanted the support of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration for them to have satellite offices here at Clark,” Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) President Emigdio P. Tanjuatco III said.

Cebu Pacific Spokesman Paterno S. Mantaring agreed, saying that this takes away the pain of traveling to Manila that passengers from the North have to experience just to process their papers.

“Relevant agencies have also discussed the need to establish a one-stop government center in Clark, to provide easy access to basic government services for air passengers, especially overseas Filipino workers,” he said.

Mantaring added: “This will ensure that passengers departing out of Clark would be able to secure all necessary requirements or permits for domestic or international travel without delay, while guests arriving in Clark for business or leisure would be able to continue with their onward flights, i.e., via Manila, at the soonest possible time.”

‘No cure for NAIA’

Local carriers must also be willing to give Clark a second chance, as this would eventually entice passengers to use the airport and fill the gap between the supply and demand.

To do this, the government may dangle incentives to airlines that are willing and able to move out from the NAIA to Clark.

“Clark can accommodate at least an additional 100 weekly flights today, which can double every year and handle all flight frequencies in five years in a phased transfer of international flights during the period. The airport and transport authorities can mandate this in an official air-transportation policy that they may enunciate. Although they need much political will to do it,” said Avelino L. Zapanta, an aviation expert . “They can dangle incentives to the first airlines to volunteer to transfer.  Many would soon be willing to transfer anyway rather than not be able to expand services in Manila.”

The five-year phased transfer will require at least six things, he added.

“Clark needs a fourth terminal, the one they have already in blueprint that can handle 80 million passengers a year, which will make Clark an aerotropolis; a third one for low-cost carriers had been approved and is supposed to commence construction in 2016,” he said.

He added that the airport needs a third runway at the opposite side of the aerodrome to allow simultaneous take-off and landing of wide-body aircraft, and also to allow the Airbus A380s to operate there. The third requirement is the construction of a high-speed railway line that will connect Clark and NAIA to allow for connecting flights.

“Fourth is to encourage the operation of helicopter city hopper to connect Clark, particularly with Metro Manila, so that high-end passengers would have an alternative faster transfer service; business executives can even be arranged to land on top of the high-rise building they’d go to in the central business districts,” Zapanta said.

The last two are the establishment of terminals for buses, rent-a-car services, and limousine transfers; and the strengthening of domestic-to-international transfer services.

“Whether we like it or not, Clark will become an international gateway because there is no cure for the congestion of NAIA except Clark,” he said.

Building high-speed railway

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio A. Abaya said these recommendations are currently being looked at by his agency. The general direction for Clark, according to him, is for the government to improve its capacity to accommodate further growth.

“The National Economic and Development Authority Board approved the Clark International Airport New Passenger Terminal Building Project last September. Right now, we are about to bid out the detailed engineering design for the development of this passenger terminal building. This project is part of the Clark master plan, which was developed by Aéroports de Paris,” he said.

The new terminal will be done in three phases: the first phase will have an annual passenger capacity of 3 million. It will then be increased to 5 million during the second phase, and eventually to 8 million in the final phase.

Abaya added that the government is also trying to address the need for faster connectivity by constructing a high-speed railway that will connect the northern and southern Luzon.

“In terms of accessibility, there is a long-term plan to extend railway operations in the north through the North-South Rail Project. Phase 1 will be the P171-billion Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-Official Development Assistance project that will connect Metro Manila to Malolos in Bulacan; and Phase 2 will be handled by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority that will connect Malolos to Clark International Airport,” he said.

This, however, will come only in the next five years, according to a timeline provided by Abaya’s office.

Clark vs Sangley

While Clark has been perceived as a Band-Aid solution for Naia’s woes, the development of a new airport based in Sangley Point in Cavite is seen as the long-term answer to the chronic mess at Manila’s main gateway.

The transportation department recently received a pre-feasibility study from the JICA that lists the possible locations of the new airport. The study pinpointed two Cavite-based locations, called Sangley 1A and 1B. As to the official location that will be endorsed by JICA, the transport chief can only speculate.

Whichever the site will be, the statesman noted, however, his camp will be forwarding it to the country’s chief economic-planning body, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board.

Sangley 1A is in the same site as the naval station in Cavite. The other one is near the central Manila Bay, between the military base and a reclaimed area.

The first option will cost both the government and a private-sector partner less than the second choice. The first one only costs $10 billion, while the other is pegged at around $13 billion.

The future airport will boast of four runways, which can handle 700,000 aircraft movements per year. It will have a rated capacity of 130 million passengers annually.

The deal is expected to be implemented under the government’s key infrastructure program, mixed with funding from official development assistance. Commercial operations of the new air hub should start by 2025, just about 10 years from now.

“Sangley came up only with Abaya apparently because it is in his district in Cavite. Clark has always been the subject of development since Fidel V. Ramos’s time. I prefer Clark. Sangley’s reclamation need is huge and will impede commercial shipping traffic in/out Manila Bay, among many other disadvantages,” Zapanta said.

Philippine Airlines President Jaime J. Bautista added that given the amount of time that the government needs to construct a new airport, it is but wiser to consider Clark first before Sangley.

“Sangley is a good plan. But it will take time, right? It will take about 10 years to 15 years to be completed. In the meantime, let’s fix Clark first,” he said.

For his part, Cebu Pacific’s Mantaring said his camp is more excited with the soon-to-be-built Sangley Airport.

“To cater to travelers used to Manila, it would be ideal to develop a new airport closer to the capital city, while forging ahead with the continuous development and improvement of NAIA. In particular, Cebu Pacific looks forward to the optimization of the NAIA runways with the development of rapid exit taxiways, which will allow up to two more aircraft movements per hour and significantly reduce consequential flight delays,” he said.

He added: “Cebu Pacific also highly anticipates the commencement of air-traffic navigation services from British firm Nats Services Ltd., which aim to boost hourly air-traffic movements to 60 from its current 40 limit. NAIA and Sangley Point remain more accessible to travelers from Manila, and would greatly benefit from the government’s proposed expansion projects.”

Triple airport strategy

American Chamber of Commerce Senior Advisor John D. Forbes and European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines External Vice President Henry J. Schumacher both agreed that developing Clark instead of Sangley is the best option for the Philippines.

“We support the dual-airport policy. Clark has been marginalized for two decades. With NAIA now at capacity, the government must be more serious about using Clark,” Forbes said. “Sangley and any other NAIA replacement is unlikely for 15 years. Unless Clark and other international airports are used more, tourist arrivals cannot meet targets.” The dual-airport strategy calls for the simultaneous development of both Clark and NAIA.

“We support the dual-airport strategy. We believe budget flight, including part of Cebu Pacific, should be moved to Clark. This will require a fast transit bus or rail system. If it will work on Edsa from Quezon City to Makati, the bus transit could be extended to Clark,” Schumacher said.

But for Philippines AirAsia President Joy D. Cañeba, there is no reason for the government not to develop both airports at once.

“Clark is already a viable airport. Let’s develop this first; but there is no reason for us to develop only one or two major airports as the demand for air travel has grown exponentially and the growth is forecast to continue with increasing low-cost airline operations and the expanding middle class and the Philippines is losing opportunities if we do not start building, expanding and improving airports now,” she said.

The transport chief, for his part, said the government will be keen on developing all three airports to reap the benefits of the ballooning domestic and international traffic volumes.

“The government is developing Clark and is, likewise, going to develop a new Manila international airport. The short- to medium- term plan is to develop NAIA via public-private partnership to expand its capacity in order to meet projected throughput until 2037, which is estimated at 51.4 million passengers per annum. The proposal is for a 15- to 20-year concession under an operate-rehabilitate-add-transfer scheme at an estimated cost of over P120 billion,” he said.

This project, expected to be completed by 2017, is still for the approval of the Neda Board.

“We are developing Clark by building a new passenger terminal building, which will eventually increase its capacity to 8 million passengers annually. In the long term, JICA is finishing its site-location study on the new Manila International Airport,” he said.

But with all these only expected to be completed in a matter of decades, the Philippines will continue to lose its potential passengers to its neighbors in the region.

SOURCE: Lorenz S. Marasigan, http://www.businessmirror.com.ph

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