Last ditch airport | Inquirer Business

Last ditch airport

01:40 AM January 29, 2015

NO, IT could not be, it would be quite unthinkable that the boys in the Cabinet would tell our leader, Benigno Simeon (aka BS), some outright lies—with clear intent to deceive the president of the republic.

It seemed that, based on word around business town, the Aquino (Part II) administration was just about ready to dismiss a little-known proposal for a “third runway” at the Manila airport Naia.


From what I gathered, a local conglomerate offered to build the “third runway” to ease the serious air traffic congestion at the Naia.

In charge of the “third runway” project was of course the DOTC, but word had it that the DOTC badmouthed the offer to our leader BS.


As a background, the lone airport in Manila actually has two runways. They are nevertheless perpendicular to each other. For the longest time, therefore, the Naia can use only one runway for commercial flights. Air traffic in Manila grew so much over the years that one single runway would soon—if not already—be ridiculously deficient.

The “third runway” was deemed a stopgap measure, while the government was still taking its sweet time to decide the final location of the new Manila airport, which all sorts of think tank here and abroad said we needed since the time of Lapu-Lapu.

Anyway, it so happened that our leader BS took special personal interest in the “third runway” project, and so he inquired with the DOTC about the private sector offer.

From what I gathered, top DOTC officials intimated to our leader, BS, that the offer had one major dangerous design flaw. It had something to do with air traffic safety.

It seemed that, at least according to the top DOTC officials, the offer was to build the “third runway” right beside the existing runway, or somewhere on top of it, or perhaps even under it.

The report reaching our dear leader, BS, was that, under the design, the “third runway” would be so close to the existing one, pilots of arriving or departing airplanes could touch each other’s hair in the nose.

What I heard was that the design actually specified a distance of some 200 meters between the existing and the proposed runways.


Moreover, the design was the result of engineering and safety studies done with the help of former officials of the US Federal Aviation Authority, which was the agency that downgraded the Philippine air safety to the woeful Category II.

In comparison, according to sources with technical expertise on airport designs, the airports in big US cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles always had runways some 150 meters apart.

In short, the boys of our dear leader BS in the Cabinet reported to him some shameless lies. And so the ultimate question would be, well, what were their agenda in hiding the real score to their boss.

One speculation I heard was that the offer came from a group that was “not” welcome to the DOTC and its officialdom, whether they were appointed by Malacañang or were just behind the scenes.

Now, the DOTC shot down a proposal for the construction of a brand new $10-billion world-class airport complete with all the runways and all the concourses and all the modern technical facilities that you could ever imagine.

But some funny guy in the DOTC reportedly wanted to build the new Manila airport instead at the old US Air Force base in Sangley, Cavite, where some important DOTC official was said to be running for office in 2016.

Actually, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, or the Jica, supported the DOTC position, saying it would be cheaper for the Philippine government to just upgrade the only Sangley runway.

Fine—the only question was, well, how would people in and around Metro Manila get there. Boss, the last time we checked, there was hardly any infrastructure, such as wide expressways and railways, leading to the remote area known as Sangley.

I don’t know, but for us to reach the proposed airport in Sangley, the DOTC perhaps wanted us to fly like bats by growing our own wings.

As it has been for sometime now, the Manila airport needs to serve more than 500 flights everyday and, based on forecasts, the Philippines should expect big jumps in air travel in the next few years.

It was perhaps a tribute to our dear leader, BS, that his administration’s tourism campaign paid off, offering one bright spot in the administration.

For instance, tourism receipts kept on going up since 2010, from $2.8 billion to some $3.8 billion in 2013, and possibly going up to about $5 billion in 2014.

Also, arrivals into the country hit more than 33 million in 2013, and we would be 40 million soon enough.

Really, before we know it, the Manila airport would be bursting with travelers. To think, air traffic has already been a problem for sometime now, with airplanes needing to queue up before they could land.

I am not kidding: Domestic airlines would have to ask permission from the Manila airport tower before their Manila-bound flights could take off in another city in the Mindanao. Air traffic has become that bad!

And we still wonder why we suffer from flight delays.

Really now, air travel in this country has been growing fast in the face of the poor infrastructure, which was evident in the “travel and tourism competitiveness index” done by the World Economic Forum.

I am so proud to report that, according to the latest index, the Philippines actually beat some 27 countries. Never mind that there were some 139 countries in the survey, and so we actually took the 112th place. And let us be glad that, among the countries in the whole of Asia, we still managed to beat Nepal, Bangladesh and Mongolia.

Like it or not, all other countries built new airports the size of the Australian continent in the past 15 years or so.

Based on the story about the supposed “lie” told to our leader BS by his boys in the Cabinet, we were still caught in the intrigues over just a “third runway.”

Look, boss, it was just a runway—not an airport. And it was just the “third” one—which for intents and purposes would only be the “second” working runway for commercial flights.

Our very own Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, the CAAP, already pronounced that the Manila airport could accommodate only 40 flights per hour and that the “third runway” could raise the figure up to 70 flights.

Still, according to studies done by the giant airplane manufacturer Airbus, the Asia-Pacific would have the fastest air travel growth rate in next 20 years, and at the top of such a growth rate would be the Philippines.

Sadly, this last ditch effort called the “third runway” would only be the stopgap measure in the next five years, because Metro Manila really needs a new modern airport.

It would be hard to tell whether or not his boys in the Cabinet would normally give our leader BS the runaround on important projects like the airport and other priority projects.

But it has been clear all along that the Aquino (Part II) administration neglected to address our need for infrastructure all this time.

Unfortunately, our leader BS ultimately would get the flak some time after 2016. Really, his boys in Cabinet were just toying around with on his own legacy.

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TAGS: Aquino administration, DoTC, third Naia runway, travel and tourism competitiveness index
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