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DOTC weighs options for major PH airports

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The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is finalizing a comprehensive airport policy aimed at solving current congestion issues while laying down the growth strategy for the international air terminals serving Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya detailed in a business forum Thursday plans for the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) terminals in Pasay City and the smaller but fast-growing Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The original option was to transfer all of Naia’s operations to Clark in five to seven years, but Abaya told reporters that the agency was now leaning toward a “dual airport” system.

This means growing Clark’s operations and expanding Naia’s capacity in the meantime. These moves should run parallel to efforts to search for an eventual replacement to Naia, located no more than 30 minutes away, he said.

“We will be seeking approval from the President to aggressively expand and promote Clark, while at the same time continuing the ongoing improvements and upgrades that will maximize Naia’s capacity,” said Abaya, a guest speaker at the general membership meeting of the Makati Business Club.

“The studies we’ve been doing show that both [ Naia and Clark] can operate at the same time without compromising commercial viability,” he added.

Abaya said the proposals were being finalized and could be presented to President Aquino by May.

A new airport is needed under this proposal given that Naia, which can no longer expand its land area physically, will eventually exhaust options to grow its capacity, Abaya said.

The government estimates that it would be necessary to close the Naia terminals by 2025, although that deadline could be adjusted depending on “new technologies.”

“As airport experts would say, it takes 10 years of planning for a new airport. So the Naia replacement [plans] should be made now in order to anticipate the closure of Naia come 2025 or so,” Abaya said.

The Naia terminals, which  have a combined capacity of 30 million passengers per year, are already servicing about 31 million passengers annually, Abaya said.

The Clark Airport served 1.3 million passengers last year versus its two-million passenger capacity and efforts are underway to increase capacity to four million to five million passengers annually.

Abaya, meanwhile, also noted the need to decongest Metro Manila’s cargo and passenger ports.

“Another necessary policy decision we have to consider carefully is shifting of cargo traffic from Manila to Batangas port. Our port terminals here in Manila are operating at full capacity thereby already constrained,” Abaya said. “Batangas port, on the other hand, remains very much underutilized.”

“We are looking into ways by which we can divert the traffic to Batangas port, and even Subic Port up north, in order to decongest Manila,” he said.


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