Executives from various industries have criticized the government for sending mixed signals regarding the development of Clark International Airport, saying that no clear policy direction has emerged even after three years of studies.
In a press conference on Wednesday, private sector officials attending the Clark Aviation Conference this week said the government appeared to be dragging its feet on the issue of Clark, once considered to be a viable replacement to Manila’s congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
“The problem is that the DOTC has never made up its mind on Clark. First, they (the government) said they would develop (Clark Airport) and it would replace Naia. Now they are talking about having both airports operational at the same time,” said Capt. Benjamin Solis, an adviser to Clark International Airport Corp. and a former consultant of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).
Solis also said the fact that the DOTC, the biggest department of the government’s executive branch, has had three different secretaries in as many years made decision-making a longer process. As a result, several projects to expand different parts of the airport remain in limbo.
He revealed that state-run Land Bank of the Philippines already approved a P600-million loan to fund the expansion of the existing passenger terminal at Clark. This project will increase the facility’s capacity to five million passengers a year from 2.5 million a year.
Also, the business leaders are wondering whether the government plans to develop Clark as a replacement to Naia or if it would remain a secondary point to Manila.
“Investors just want to see Clark as an option. They aren’t satisfied because nobody is making up their minds. Investors will only put money if there is certainty,” said Jeff Pradhan, former president of Clark Investors and Locators Association.
“It all comes down to lost opportunities at the end of the day,” said Pradhan, who is now with Peregrine, a logistics firm inside the Clark Freeport Zone.
He said several foreign companies have invested heavily in Clark in the last few years, expecting that the government would focus on developing the area as a replacement to Naia.
Last year, the DOTC said plans to develop Clark would be put on the backburner as the government studied proposals for a new airport closer to Manila to replace Naia. Clark is 80 kilometers north of the metropolis.