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Transport chief sets conditions on new airport proposals

Air traffic congestion has nowhere to go but up at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), prompting the government to explore alternative locations.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said on Friday he was open to suggestions for new gateways, including a San Miguel Corp. (SMC)-proposed airport on Manila Bay, except he has conditions.

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In his first press conference as Transport chief, Tugade said the proposal should not require sovereign guarantees. He said the government should also not be compelled to provide financial backing and support in terms of encouraging airlines to locate at the new facility.

He said the new project would also likely need the approval of various government agencies.

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Ramon Ang, president of SMC, said last month he would offer the company’s massive Manila Bay international airport proposal to the Duterte administration.

The $10-billion proposal would sit on 1,600 hectares of mainly reclaimed land in Manila Bay. It was proposed to former President Aquino two years ago, but the project never progressed beyond that.

Ang said he would also invite other business groups to participate, including that of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan.

SMC’s Manila Bay airport would initially handle 75 million passengers per year, eventually increasing this to 100 million. Naia is already operating beyond its capacity, which hit 36.7 million passengers last year.

Ang said the new airport would have four runways and would end air traffic congestion for at least the next three decades.

New locations were being explored because the existing alternative, the Clark International Airport in Pampanga province, was deemed too far for most Metro Manila residents.

Tugade said on Friday that increasing mass transit to Clark was among the administration’s priority projects.

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