Gov’t indecision over Clark’s fate criticized by JFC
Criticism continues to mount over the government’s apparent inability to set a definite course on the development of the Clark International Airport, seen as the key to solving the infrastructure bottleneck choking the country’s aviation sector.
In a report released this week, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines (JFC) said the lack of a master plan for airports in Metro Manila and Central Luzon remained a glaring blemish in the administration’s otherwise sparkling reputation.
“The absence of a modern international gateway restricts tourism, trade and investment—in short, a major turnoff for international investors,” the JFC said in its Arangkada 2013 anniversary assessment report.
The report lists several recommendations for the Philippine government in the areas of transport infrastructure, power, water utilities and telecommunications.
Chief among these recommendations was the need to focus on the development of the country’s airports—particularly Clark International Airport in Pampanga, and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.
The JFC is comprised of the European Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines, the American Chamber of Commerce, and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, among others.
“Frequent change of leadership at DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communications) has put the dual gateway airport concept in the twilight zone,” the JFC said.
It added that while the government, through the DOTC and the Department of Public Works and Highways, has approved plans to link the Metro Manila Skyway and the North Luzon Expressway to improve accessibility to the North, the relevance of Clark is “no longer emphasized.”
“There is no green light to make Clark a twin airport with Naia. The proposal of Ramon Ang to build a new airport for PAL near Metro Manila is another stumbling block in the decision of government to transform Clark,” the JFC said.
The JFC said the DOTC has time and again promised to make a decision on what to do with Clark, and has even allocated P100 million for a study to see how the development of two airports could be done.
While the government studies its options, the JFC said Clark continues to struggle to accommodate its ever-increasing growth in passenger traffic, which grew 71 percent to 1.3 million last year.
Clark’s operator Clark International Airport Corp. plans to build a new passenger terminal for budget airlines with a capacity of 15 million people a year, but based on airline fleet planning information at Clark, passenger traffic could reach 16 million annually by 2018.
Earlier this month, the Clark Investors and Locators Association also called on the DOTC to be more decisive on the issue of Clark, which was once considered the inevitable replacement for Naia.
Plans to develop Clark as the new premier gateway were shelved last year, with the government saying it would rather have a new airport closer to Manila.
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