Airline group rejects Clark as main int'l airport

Posted at 09/27/12 4:55 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 240 airlines around the world, wants the government to reconsider its plan to turn Clark International Airport as the Philippines' main gateway. 

IATA chief executive officer and director general Tony Tyler said Clark is not a long-term solution to the country's capacity shortage. 

"Clark is not a solution to the long-term issue of capacity to service the market because it's too far away from Manila and it's in Manila where people want to come for business, for tourism, among others. Something needs to be done to provide adequate capacity in Manila but Clark is not a solution," he said. 

There are plans to turn Clark International Airport, located 100 kilometers from Manila, into the country's main international airport, replacing the Ninoy Aquino International Airport which is already operating at near capacity.

Tyler, who is scheduled to meet President Benigno Aquino, said he will urge him to build a hub airport for Manila. 

"I will be urging (President Aquino) to make a hub airport for Manila a priority. Building a secondary airport or increasingly splitting the traffic with Clark in its current form will not be sufficient to put the Philippines on the same playing field as its much more competitive neighbors," he said.

Tyler said the Philippines' failure to invest in air transport has caused the country to lag behind Asian neighbors. 

In the World Economic Forum's Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index, the Philippines ranks 112 out of 139 countries for the quality of its air transport infrastructure.  The only Asian countries that were ranked lower were Nepal, Bangladesh and Mongolia. 

"The Philippines has a rich aviation history. PAL was the pioneering airline in the region.  Considering this, the state of air transport infrastructure in Manila is nothing short of a travesty. And this is holding back the development of this great country," he said.

The IATA official said he will also urge the President to remove excessive taxes imposed on air transport, such as the Common Carrier Tax (CCT) and Gross Philippine Billings (GPB). 

"I will be urging the President to keep a watchful eye over excessive tax burdens on air transport. For example, elimination CCT and GPB will create 'win-win' opportunities by lowering the total cost of international passenger travel by 2.5%, and increasing the number of international arrivals and departure in the Philippines by 1.9%," he said.

Also, IATA will suggest the President make IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA) and the IATA Safety Audit for Ground Operations (ISAGO) requirements to operate in the country, without any cost for the government.

Tyler noted IATA airlines' safety performance are 52% better than other airlines. 

"IOSA makes a positive difference. IATA does not produce banned lists or rankings," he said, referring to the country's Category 2 status from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The Philippines was downgraded by FAA in 2008 after a safety audit showed deficiencies in the country's air industry regulations. With its Category 2 status, all Philippines-based airlines are barred from expanding operations in the US. 

"I will be urging the President to personally intervene to sort this out. IATA certainly stands ready and willing to help. IATA has been providing support to improve the safety and efficiency of the air traffic management through observation programs of air traffic control, training for Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines personnel and development of procedures to improve operational efficiency.  We have also facilitated working groups to identify airport safety hotspots and review ATC procedures," he said.