Private airport offers take backseat
The Department of Transportation’s (DOTr) Greater Manila airport strategy is taking shape and the plans so far exclude massive private sector offers meant to replace the busy Ninoy Aquino International Airport, a government official said.
Manuel Antonio Tamayo, DOTr undersecretary for aviation, told reporters that the government would proceed with its own plans to decongest Naia, including developing a portion of the nearby Sangley Point, Cavite air base and Clark International Airport in Pampanga as alternative gateways.
His statements provided the clearest glimpse yet into the government’s priorities in formulating an airport strategy for the Greater Manila area.
Tamayo also disclosed the status of ambitious new airport offers by San Miguel Corp. as well as the Solar Group and Belle Corp. consortium: Tucked away in the “backseat.”
“It’s still there. It’s still being considered. But it’s not immediate. It’s more of a medium-term [decision],” Tamayo said.
Naia, the Philippines busiest gateway, has limited expansion options, being surrounded by crucial roads as well as dense residential and commercial areas. It already served about 39.5 million passengers last year against its design capacity of 31 million passengers.
Naia is also unable to keep up with rising demand given flight limitations caused by its two intersecting runways, in contrast with many global hubs, which have at least two parallel runways, allowing for more takeoff and landing events.
“We need to decongest Manila. That’s the main problem,” Tamayo said.
For Sangley, Tamayo said the DOTr and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines would spend about P700 million to rehabilitate the Sangley air base. The objective is to transfer general aviation activities and some domestic flights from Naia to Sangley.
It is the same government-backed plan for the Clark Airport, albeit on a much larger scale.
Tamayo said Clark Airport, whose development is being led by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority, would adopt the master plan provided by France’s Aeroport De Paris.
This called for the initial doubling of Clark’s capacity to 8 million passengers a year by 2019. Clark Airport handles only about a quarter of its present four-million passenger capacity.
The DOTr, earlier this year, appeared keen on private sector proposals to build a Naia replacement at no expense to the government and without any state guarantees.
SMC offered to build a P700-billion “aerotropolis” spanning roughly 2,500 hectares in Bulacan, north of Metro Manila. Separately, the Solar and Belle proposed a P1.3-trillion reclamation project in offshore Sangley Point, Cavite. About 2,500 hectares would then be redeveloped into a new airport, seaport and industrial estate.
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