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PH transport agency finalizing policy to fix airport congestion

Passenger traffic at Clark International Airport rose 62% in the first quarter of 2013 from the same period last year.

A comprehensive airport policy that would tackle congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport while laying down the growth strategy for the international air terminals in Metro Manila and nearby provinces is being finalized, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said.

The plan covers Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals and the smaller but fast-growing Clark International Airport in Pampanga, Transport Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya detailed in a business forum last Thursday.

The original option was to transfer all of NAIA’s operations to Clark in five to seven years, but Abaya said the agency was now also looking at the “dual airport” system.

This means growing Clark’s operations while expanding NAIA’s capacity – moves that should run parallel to efforts to search for a site not more than 30 minutes away to eventually replace NAIA, he said.

“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,” said Abaya, a guest speaker at the general membership meeting of the Makati Business Club.

“The studies we’ve been doing show that both (NAIA and Clark) can operate at the same time without compromising commercial viability,” he added.

Abaya said the proposals were being finalized and could be presented to President Aquino by May.

A new airport is needed under this proposal given that NAIA, which can no longer expand its land area physically, will eventually exhaust options to grow its capacity, Abaya said.

The government estimates it would be necessary to close the NAIA terminals by 2025, although that deadline could be adjusted depending on “new technologies.”

The NAIA terminals are servicing about 31 million passengers annually, more than their combined capacity of 30 million passengers a year, Abaya said.

Clark airport served 1.3 million passengers last year versus its two-million passenger capacity and efforts are under way to increase capacity to four million to five million passengers annually.


Clark passenger traffic in Q1

International and domestic passenger volume at Clark airport soared in the first quarter of the year as more travelers used the Pampanga-based budget airline hub.

Clark International Airport Corp. president and CEO Victor Jose Luciano said January to March passenger volume increased 62% to 408,895 compared with the same period last year.

January posted the highest surge, with volume increasing 71% to 153,920. February volume rose 57% to 123,349 and went up a further 56% to 131,626 in March.

Clark airport’s passenger volume rose 71% to 3 million last year compared with the volume in 2011.

Luciano attributed the growth in passengers to the increase in international flights out of Clark, adding that the trend is more likely to continue.

To better serve its customers, Clark airport is preparing to double its capacity to 4 million passengers annually.

In October, Dubai-based airline Emirates will start operations at Clark, linking passengers to Dubai and Europe. Emirates will use its Boeing 777-300ERs with passenger capacity of 437.

“We expect this to further increase as we are anticipating the start of the Emirates non-stop daily flights between Dubai and Clark and vice versa on October 1,” Luciano said.

Clark airport hosts various budget airlines including Malaysia’ Air Asia Berhad, Air Asia Philippines, Philippine Airlines’ PAL Express, SEAIR/Tiger, Cebu Air Inc. (Cebu Pacific), Jin Air, Asiana Airlines, and Dragonair.

The surge in passenger volume was attributed to budget airlines that use Clark as an alternative to congested NAIA attracting more customers through cheaper fares.

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