MANILA, Philippines?Local airlines are calling on the government to fast-track the expansion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 to cope with the robust growth expected in the country?s air-travel sector over the next five years.
Budget carrier Cebu Pacific said that in a few years? time, Terminal 3, which the airline uses as its main hub, would no longer be enough to handle the volume of the airlines? passengers that pass through Manila daily.
Opened in the middle of 2008, NAIA Terminal 3 is the country?s newest airport. It was mothballed for several years due to ownership issues, which remain unresolved to this day.
Cebu Pacific is the first carrier to move its operations to NAIA 3.
?By the end of 2011, Cebu Pacific will be operating a fleet of 37 aircraft, from 32 today. Between 2012 and 2014, it will take additional 16 Airbus A320 aircraft,? Cebu Pacific vice president for commercial planning Alex Reyes said.
?The rapid expansion of all carriers, not just Cebu Pacific, meant that the country?s premier airport, NAIA, is now among the largest airports in the world,? Reyes said in a speech at the 2nd Annual Philippine Aviation Summit at the Villamor Air Base on Wednesday.
In 2009, he said NAIA handled more than 24 million passengers, almost making it in the global ranking of the 50 largest airports.
This rapid growth calls for the government to up infrastructure investments. He said this means setting up terminals, runways and navigation systems that were more than adequate for the next five years.
?We have already opened discussions with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) on how to expand the capacity of Terminal 3,? Reyes said.
?Given the vital role that the Manila airport plays as a hub for domestic and international flights, the aviation industry needs Terminal 3 to be made fully operational,? he added.
Ideally, he said the airport?s capacity should be expanded to 20 million passengers a year from today?s 13 million, in parallel with efforts to build up Clark as an alternative gateway into the Philippines.
By 2014, Cebu Pacific said it would have about 12 million passengers flying out of Manila.
Improving the country?s airports would also help develop the country?s tourism industry, said to be a likely major driver of economic growth and poverty reduction.
Rival airline Air Philippines, a sister company of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, said unless Terminal 3 is expanded soon, bottlenecks would be unavoidable.
?As it is right now, Terminal 3?s capacity is really not enough,? Air Philippines president Cesar Chiong said. Air Philippines, now operating as Air Phil Express, is the only other carrier in Terminal 3.