MAPping the Future

Thinking poor and small

/ 02:07 AM April 06, 2015

THINKING poor and small is one reason why the Philippines lags behind many of its neighbors in Asia.

One example of such thinking is the plan to build a distinct low-cost terminal at the Clark International Airport.


The low-cost terminal does not have a bridge leading directly to the plane.

The passengers have to take a bus or walk to the tarmac then go up steep stairs to the plane. This does not elevate our airport to world-class standards.


The plan to build a low-cost terminal in Clark is retrogressive thinking that will not help us win the race toward economic prosperity within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Based on Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) data, a premier airport terminal will cost about $1.2 billion versus $200 million for a low-cost terminal.

If cost is the main consideration, developing a premier airport terminal can be done in phases so that the cost can be broken down per module.

The total expenditure can be budgeted accordingly and the total amount does not have to be spent immediately.

If we have to construct a low-cost terminal, it should be part of an integrated premier airport plan and not a separate facility; otherwise, it will not fit into the total airport plan.

The amenities of the premier airport, such as business establishments, waiting areas and service facilities are all integrated in the total airport plan covering both the low-cost and the premier airports.

This type of arrangement will be more convenient for passengers.


Based on Clark International Airport studies, the Clark Airport is capable of having three runways to accommodate passenger growth, possibly in the next 30 years.

Developing Clark International Airport into a premier airport will indeed entail a big sum of money.

But if it is planned on a modular design basis where each module can be a distinct airport facility, it can already serve as an airport terminal while other modules are under construction.

A premier airport might take several years before it is finished, but this modular construction will result in less disruption to airport services.

Another product of “thinking poor and small” is the program of the Manila International Airport Authority.

Terminal 1 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) was aesthetically refurbished and money has been spent for other improvements and plans for an additional terminal that will require billions of pesos.

Yet it is known that the Naia has reached its limits of utilization. It can no longer accommodate passenger growth due to lack of runways.

Therefore, delays and inconvenience have become perennial problems of incoming and outgoing passengers and these will not be solved by the expenditures.

The development of the Clark International Airport as an alternative premier airport is the most convenient and practical solution to our airport problem. The land area is capable of having three runways that can accommodate passenger growth.

Clark has existing infrastructure facilities, hotels and business establishments.

Therefore, these amenities will continue to be attractive to tourists, businesses and financial investors if the Clark International Airport will be converted into a premier airport.

Some are saying that Clark has no railway facilities; however, without a definite plan to turn it into a premier airport, train facilities to and from Metro Manila will not be attractive to investors.

The Philippines has become known for having one of the worst airports in the world and that concern has to be addressed soon.

The problem is that decision-makers think small and are afraid to make bold actions for a better tomorrow.

This article reflects the personal opinion of the author and does not reflect the official stand of the Management Association of the Philippines or the MAP. The author is the chair of the Consolidated Matrix Inc., former director of the CIAC and former chair of the CIAC infrastructure committee. Feedback at [email protected] and [email protected] For previous articles, please visit map.org.ph.

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