Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga, Philippines – The private sector is seeking faster development of Clark airport, two hours north of the Philippine capital Manila, to keep pace with Clark’s ambitions as Asia’s next aerotropolis.
An aerotropolis is an urban plan in which the layout, infrastructure, and economy is centered around an airport, existing as an airport city.
Jeff Pradhan, former president of the Clark Investors and Locators Association and current vice president for sales and marketing of Global Gateway Logistics City, presented the private sector’s wish list to fully develop Clark International Airport into a viable passenger and logistics hub at the recently concluded Clark Aviation Conference.
Pradhan conducted a poll among members of the private sector on what action the government must take to convert Clark into a regional aviation center. Survey participants were asked for suggestions on how private sector entities, such as ecozone locators, airline operators, and logistics companies, can contribute to the growth of Clark International Airport.
Leading the private sector wish list was the need to recognize Clark International Airport (CIA) under a twin-airport system as a complementary facility to Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and to designate CIA as an alternative international gateway.
“We wish to have an immediate development of terminal and support facilities to keep up with airport growth and demand, and the commitment for future development of a third parallel runway,” Pradhan said.
In the past, Pradhan said the airport suffered from “death by study” with one agency after another conducting feasibility studies on the facility. The latest initiative was by the Department of Transportation and Communications which in July 2012 allotted P100 million for a CIA study.
Amid all the studies, air traffic at CIA has grown by leaps and bounds. Last year, passenger volume grew 70% from 2011.
Compared to congested NAIA, CIA has much room for expansion. NAIA occupies only 645 hectares while CIA sits on 2,367 hectares.
“Further development and utilization of Clark is a win-win for the country. Uncertainty leads to less investment and missed opportunities,” Pradhan said.
He added what is a needed is a “clear and enumerated plan for the country’s aviation infrastructure, a timeline for the implementation of the plan, and its execution.”
The Philippine aviation industry’s Category 1 status also has to be regained and the common carriers’ tax repealed, he said.
In December 2012, the Senate approved Senate Bill 3343 that seeks to remove taxes imposed on foreign carriers.
Pradhan said at least eight foreign carriers are set to open, resume or add flights to the Philippines once the government scraps the airline levies. These are Lufthansa/Swiss Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Delta Airlines, Etihad, KLM, Kuwait Airlines, and Qatar Airlines.
He noted, “Government should be a transparent regulator, risk sharer and a source of incentives to attract private sector partners to support the development of Clark.
“Clark should be viewed as both enhancing the connectivity of the citizens within the Philippines and boosting the global competitiveness as an FDI (foreign direct investment) and trade destination in Asia.”
Clark International Airport Corp president and CEO Victor Jose Luciano said his office is pushing for the development of the budget terminal and expansion of the existing airport facility.
“The expansion of the terminal has already been submitted to the Department of Transportation and Communications; all we need is to expedite it for approval,” Luciano said.
The current terminal has a capacity of 2.5 million which, when upgraded, will be able to accommodate 4 million passengers a year. The proposed expansion project is estimated to cost P360 million.
The proposed budget terminal for low-cost carriers, on the other hand, has an annual 10-12 million passenger capacity. Construction would cost P5 billion.
Eight low-cost airlines, including Air Asia and Cebu Pacific, have already made Clark as its hub.
By October, Emirates will begin daily, non-stop flights from CIA to Dubai. The service will plug in Clark into Emirates’ 147 global destinations.