IATA pushes single airport system

Posted at 05/06/13 8:01 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is pushing for the continued improvement of the operations of the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the establishment of an alternative gateway within the metropolis.

Albert Tjoeng, IATA’s assistant director of corporate communications for Asia Pacific, said the organization is supporting a single airport solution that is easily accessible from the city.

“The priority for Manila is to maximize the effective capacity and throughput from the existing facilities. IATA has provided guidance to the authorities in this regard, such as building rapid exit taxiways and better slot management. But there is a need to develop a long term solution to the airport needs of the Manila area,” Tjoeng said in an e-mail.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya earlier said Malacañang is carefully studying three options including the possibility of shutting down and selling NAIA to reach a decision on whether the Philippines would adopt a single or twin airport system.

Abaya said the first option involves a single airport system wherein the government would shut down and sell the congested NAIA and develop the Clark International Airport in Pampanga.

The second option, he revealed, involves dual system wherein the government would develop Clark and at the same time maximize the operations of NAIA until 2025 while looking for an alternative site for a new airport that would be 25 kilometers or 30 minutes away from the existing gateway.

The DOTC chief said the third option also involves dual system wherein the government would jointly develop Clark and NAIA and then decide whether or not to put up an alternative airport.

"Previously, the direction was to move all NAIA’s current operations to Clark International Airport within the next five to seven 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,” he earlier said in his speech before the Makati Business Club (MBC) .

He said the agency is looking at ways to further increase the capacity of the old NAIA airport to 60 events or landings and take offs per hour from the average 40 events per hour.

Abaya pointed out that Cabinet secretaries are leaning towards the second option of jointly developing NAIA and Clark while looking for a site for a new international gateway. This may involve the reclamation of Laguna de Bay or Manila Bay as well as the Sangley airport in Cavite.

The Clark International Airport Corp. is set to complete the expansion of the existing terminal in the gateway in Pampanga worth P360 million by October to double the capacity to five million passengers from 2.5 million and is looking at putting up a new P12-billion budget passenger terminal.

Last November, IATA director general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler cautioned countries in Asia Pacific including the Philippines about too much private investment in the development of airport infrastructure to support demand growth in the region.

Tyler said governments in Asia Pacific should take a prudent approach to private investment in airport development projects as the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and even Korea consider the participation of private investors in building airports.

He said that when governments work with private investors to develop infrastructure, they should establish an effective economic and service-level regulatory framework to ensure that the national interest is protected.

For instance, flag carrier Philippine Airlines owned by tycoon Lucio Tan and diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. is looking at putting up a new airport near Manila as an alternative to the congested NAIA.