NAIA woes hinder aviation sector growth
Constraints at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport remain a major growth obstacle to the country’s aviation and tourism sectors, according to regional think tank Capa-Center for Aviation.
Capa, in a new report, discussed expansion issues at Naia, how airlines were dealing with limited slots, and how the Philippines was missing out on valuable tourism prospects at a time of robust economic growth.
Because the government was moving “slow” in establishing a new international airport, it said, Naia passengers still had to cope with a service level “far below that of its Asian peers.”
“The inability to add flights has hampered growth,” Capa said. “Naia would have experienced much faster passenger growth over the past few years, given the rapid growth in the Philippines economy, if airlines had been able to add more flights.”
Air passenger growth has been on the rise at Naia, which handles about 80 percent of all international traffic, and 90 percent of domestic traffic.
Naia, designed to handle about 31 million passengers yearly, accommodated about 39.5 million passengers last year, 8 percent higher than the level in 2015. The previous year, passenger growth was at 7 percent.
Capa said the Philippines, which grew 6 percent last year and would likely expand by that figure over the next few years, was missing growth opportunities.
“Typically, passenger growth is at least double the GDP growth, but the Philippines has fallen short of this metric over the past few years due to the congestion at Manila,” Capa said.
Naia has very limited expansion options, given its locations within the capital district. Airlines have been coping by up-gauging, or using larger aircraft, to accommodate more passengers without adding flights, taking off-peak hours and using more secondary gateways.
A more permanent solution was to build a new international gateway to replace Naia, Capa said. Two private-sector proposals have emerged.
One by San Miguel Corp., involved more than 2,000 hectares of land in Bulacan while a second proposal, backed by groups led by Wilson Tieng and Henry Sy Sr., involved reclaiming land in offshore Sangley Point, Cavite.
Both projects are envisioned to handle an initial 50 million passengers yearly. That figure can be doubled with the addition of runways and terminals.
“However, the new airport is still in the study phase and is at least several years away from opening. In the meantime, it is imperative for authorities to invest in upgrading and improving the existing airport,” it said.
“While there is no space at Naia for new terminals or runways, upgrades to the existing terminals are planned, along with the anticipated air traffic management improvements,” it added.
This was linked to the P75- billion Naia public-private partnerships project, approved by President Duterte last year. What was previously announced was operations and maintenance, and airport development, which would be turned over to the private sector.