Gov’t urged to implement multi-airport system


By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat | Manila Bulletin

The government is urged to implement a multi-airport system policy in the greater capital region while accelerating the development of Clark International Airport instead of the proposed dual airport system, indicating a preference for the development of Sangley Point instead of other unsolicited airport project proposals.

A policy brief on Air Transport Infrastructure presented by the Joint Foreign Chambers and the Philippine Business Groups has recommended a multi-airport system in the GCR on top of four other recommendations.

In coming up with this particular recommendation, the policy brief noted the previous study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to develop Clark as alternative airport to NAIA while at the same time maximize the operations of NAIA until 2025 and also look for an alternative site for a new airport that would be 25 kilometers or 30 minutes away from the existing gateway.

According to the study, authored by Marie Cherry Lyn S. Rodolfo of the Export Development Council Networking Committee on Transport and Logistics, a multi-airport policy system will help decongest NAIA where 70 percent of passengers pass through and maximize the usefulness of the relative proximity of the NAIA and Clark airports to each other allowing traffic flow to be better managed in terms of peak and low hours.

A multi-airport policy will likewise define the roles of NAIA and Clark and other airports like Subic and Sangley to be used for general aviation in the immediate to short term in decongesting NAIA and in enhancing the economic competitiveness of the GCR.

The policy brief noted that the most contentious issue for a multi-airport system has been traffic distribution where the government dictates to split air traffic between NAIA (for domestic) and Clark (for international). Doing so, it said, would make NAIA lose any future bid to become an Asian hub under a multi-airport system.

The brief cited the experience of Japan with the implementation of the multi-airport system for Haneda and Narita where Tokyo’s competitiveness as an Asian hub declined because the Japanese government forced one airport to serve only domestic traffic and the other to serve international traffic.

As a result, the Japanese government recently removed the restrictions on both airports. Haneda now added a new runway and other airports now offer international services.

Transportation Undersecretary Roberto Lim in a response at the Arangkada Forum noted there are unsolicited proposals from the private sector for the establishment of new airports within the GCR. He cited the Sangley point proposal by the Bell Corp. and the Solar Group’s All-Asia Resources and the Bulacan project by prononent San Miguel Corp.

Among these new airport proposals, the policy brief cited the JICA-assisted study on the New NAIA project which concluded that the Sangley Point Offshore Site can offer more opportunity for harmonized development of New  NAIA then West Laguna Lake Offshore site and therefore Sangley Point Offshore Site is considered the preferred option for development of New NAIA.

Based on a timeline beginning 2013, the new NAIA, if the government decides it will be at Sangley would be inaugurated by 2025 and beyond. Once it is opened, the current NAIA would be closed.

The policy brief, however, noted that what it is essential in the short term, especially in light of Metro Manila congestion, is the rapid development of the Clark Airport Terminal given the existing land use and master plans at Clark and its increasing utilization by Philippine carriers.

The most immediate goals, the brief said is to build the 8 million terminal in Clark to enable it to handle more than 500 passengers per hour.

The four other recommendations in the policy brief are to decongest and improve NAIA; accelerate development of secondary international gateways and provincial airports; modernize and strengthen institutions and regulations; and improve business environment and facilitate travel.