How to solve the NAIA problem: Gov't mulls 3 options

Posted at 04/25/13 4:50 PM

MANILA, Philippines - How do you solve a problem like NAIA? The government is considering three options, one which includes closing and selling off the country's main gateway Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), according to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

In a speech before the Makati Business Club, Abaya said the Department of Transportation and Communications has submitted three proposals on the airport system to President Aquino for approval.

The first option, Abaya said, involves a single airport system. Under this proposal, the government will end operations at NAIA and sell the property, and develop the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The second option is the twin airport system, where the government will develop Clark while maximizing operations at NAIA through 2025. At the same time, the government will look at an alternative site for a new airport, preferably 25 kilometers or 30 minutes away from the NAIA.

Abaya said the third option is also a twin system, where the government will develop both Clark and NAIA, while considering an alternative airport. 

"Previously, the direction was to move all NAIA’s current operations to Clark International Airport within the next 5 to 7 years. What is clear now is that we need Clark to absorb some of the traffic in NAIA. Even if initially, it seems more cost efficient to have a single main gateway, there are dual airport systems existing around the world that actually perform well commercially," Abaya said.

The DOTC is still looking to increase the capacity of NAIA, but Abaya noted there is no available land to extend its runway or build a new terminal.

While the Palace has yet to decide, Abaya said the Cabinet secretaries are in favor of the second option, wherein NAIA and Clark would be jointly developed while looking for a new site for an airport. Possible sites for the new airport include reclamation of Laguna de Bay or Manila Bay as well as the Sangley airport in Cavite.

"We will be seeking approval from the President to aggressively expand and promote Clark while at the same time continuing the ongoing improvements and upgrades that will maximize NAIA’s capacity. The studies we’ve been doing show that both can operate at the same time without compromising commercial viability," Abaya said.

The DOTC chief said improvement works at the NAIA will be finished within the year, while the structural retrofit of Terminal 1 will continue through 2014. 

MBC chairman Ramon del Rosario Jr.  emphasized the need for the government to decide on the single airport or twin airport system, as NAIA remains heavily congested.

"It is not just the economic costs but the physical well being of passengers are being compromised," he said.

NAIA, the country's main gateway for over 30 years, has repeatedly been named one of the worst airports in the world.