PRIVATE sector groups pressed government to adopt the dual airport system with Clark International Airport (CIA) as Luzon’s northern airport and Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as the island’s southern airport.
Industry associations, airline companies and related aviation stakeholders signed the Clark: Dual Airport Declaration last week which also called for the “fast-track development of Clark’s infrastructure to meet current and future passenger, carrier and cargo growth”.
Jeff Pradhan, vice president for sales and marketing of Global Gateway Logistics City, main proponent of the Clark Aviation Conference, said the declaration is a private sector initiative that lets “government know they’re missing opportunities (in not fully developing Clark airport). There’s money left on the table, there’s tourism, numbers left to be desired.”
The Clark Aviation Conference, held last February at the Clark Freeport Zone, was the catalyst for the declaration. It concluded with participants calling for the full and immediate development of Clark airport.
“The economic cluster of the government has approved the (dual airport) concept. They saw it makes sense… I think in principle what we’re recommending is being done. The only problem is when is it going to be done. That’s what we’re trying to push,” Capt. Benjamin Solis, air transport adviser of Asia Foundation, one of the signatories to the declaration, said. Solis is also adviser of the Clark International Airport Corp.
SEAIR International president Dr. Avelino Zapanta, who attended the declaration as part of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry delegation, said “the government will be overtaken by events” if it does not act quickly.
Pradhan said the dual airport system has been adopted in other countries, citing John F. Kennedy International Airport and LaGuardia Airport in New York City and Narita International Airport and Haneda Airport in Tokyo.
The declaration noted there are 23 million passengers from Northern and Central Luzon, including the northern environs of Metro Manila, that could potentially use Clark airport.
Clark airport saw passenger traffic grow 36% from January to May this year vis-à-vis the comparable period last year. For the whole of 2012, passenger traffic was up 72% year-on-year.
“There’s a huge catchment in Central and Northern Luzon. (We have a) lot of our kababayans (compatriots) there to be catered to,” Marianne Hontiveros, chief executive officer of Air Asia Philippines Inc., another declaration signatory, said.
Besides the high passenger demand, the declaration pointed out that the Clark airport covering 2,367-hectares features parallel runways; modern aviation equipment; and easy road access via the Northern Luzon Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, and Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway Expressway.
The declaration took note that “distance, if measured in time rather than kilometers”, placed Clark at just an hour away from Metro Manila via NLEX.
It also quoted a 2011 Japan International Cooperation Agency study citing Clark as the “best and only viable option to complement NAIA”. The study gave Clark an 80% mark compared to the less than 50% received by five other areas — Sangley Point in Cavite, Angat and Obando in Bulacan, Talim Island in Rizal, and Taguig in Metro Manila.
The declaration also dispelled notions that Clark airport’s viability was contingent on the presence of a high-speed rail, an expensive infrastructure that many major airports around the world do not deploy during their initial phase of operation. Asia Foundation’s Solis noted there are a dozen such examples, including Narita Airport in Japan and Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport (formerly Chiang Kai-shek International Airport).
A more efficient and economical option, the declaration pointed out, was a bus rapid transit (BRT) system. The airports in Haneda-Japan, Suvarnabhumi-Bangkok, and KLIA-Kuala Lumpur are examples of facilities that have successfully deployed their own version of the BRT.
The declaration welcomed the government’s “interest in pursuing the dual airport system to support air connectivity” and “approval of the 2.5 million interim passenger terminal and 10 million budget passenger terminal for Clark airport in support of the Department of Tourism’s target of 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016.”
The Department of Transportation and Communications has an approved budget to fund the phase 2 expansion of the existing Clark airport passenger terminal building that costs P360 million and a P952-million outlay for other projects. A P170-million feasibility study on a budget terminal building that can hold 10 million passengers was also approved.
The declaration was signed by the heads of Air Asia Philippines, American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Asia Foundation, Association of Hotels And Restaurants in Pampanga, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, Clark Investors and Locators Association, DHL Global Forwarding (Phils), European Chamber of Commerce, Global Gateway Logistics City, InterCommerce Network Services Inc., Jamco Philippines, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Korean Chamber of Commerce, Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Philippine Academy for Aviation Training, Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Philippine Exporters Confederation Region III, SIA Engineering (Phils), Qatar Airways Phils, Subic Bay International Terminal Corp, Supply Chain Management Association of the Philippines, Tiger Airways Philippines, United Portusers Confederation, and US-ASEAN Business Council Philippines.