November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

MAP calls for immediate action on airport development

THE MANAGEMENT Association of the Philippines (MAP) yesterday called on government to hasten implementation of much-needed projects to support the country’s aviation industry including expansion of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and Clark and building a railway to connect the two airports.

In a statement on Thursday, MAP -- whose membership includes more than a thousand CEOs, law and auditing partners and other senior officials of the country’s largest businesses -- said in particular, it is advocating a comprehensive approach to the development of an aviation system for the Greater Manila Area and Luzon.

“The rapid increase in the volume of visitors to the Philippines, most of whom pass through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, calls for immediate action and the harnessing of all available resources to promptly provide the needed infrastructure and management support for the growing number of air passengers,” its statement read.

MAP said it “welcomes” government pronouncements to undertake certain infrastructure projects related to the development of a complete and holistic approach to persisting aviation woes in the country which includes congestion in airports.

“[W]e fully support the plan of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) to optimize, through upgrades, the existing NAIA while redeveloping the Clark International Airport (CIA),” it added.

The government recently announced it will pursue the development of Clark International Airport on its own first and eventually bid out the operations and maintenance of the gateway “rather than risk delays” in the event auctions involving the private sector lead to litigation.

Earlier, the DoTr also said the planned P74.56-billion NAIA Development Project, a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative, is on hold for now as Transportation authorities consolidate proposals in order to make airport decongestion efforts more coherent.

“We back the decision of DoTr to maintain and upgrade NAIA, a valuable state asset. Upgrading the existing NAIA facilities now will provide early and welcome relief to the present problem of severe passenger and aircraft traffic congestion at a time well within the term of the current administration. Pending completion of the upgrades, one quick way of mitigating the congestion in NAIA is to make Clark attractive as an alternate departure and arrival airport through appropriate inducements,” the business group said.

MAP explained that a city airport, such as NAIA, has the great advantage of accessibility and went on to cite similar airport situations as in Tokyo, where Haneda is being expanded to supplement Narita International Airport, Shanghai’s Hongqiao in addition to Pudong and Berlin’s Tempelhof alongside Tegel.

“Many large cities in the world recognize this, so they are improving and maintaining their old airports instead of phasing them out,” MAP said.

It also recommended building a “fast train” to connect the two gateways and make it easier for passengers to transfer from one airport to the other.

“A fast train between Tutuban and Clark has been presented as part of the “Build, Build, Build” program under Dutertenomics. This is the second important component of the proposed aviation system, next to the two air gateways. A fast train link between the two airports, passing through the metropolis at a travel time of one hour maximum, will enable Clark to augment NAIA’s operations while it, at the same time, serves the needs of air travelers to and from Central and Northern Luzon,” MAP said.

“For better connectivity and convenience of the traveling public, we suggest that the proposed fast train to Clark be extended to NAIA, instead of terminating at Tutuban, Manila,” it added.

MAP further said that in-city check-in stations will be a “vital third infrastructure component” of the aviation system. These check-in stations, the group said, should be easily accessible and should be located adjacent to the fast train and near either the NLEx-SLEx or EDSA for easier access.

“One such facility could be located at the MPIC-proposed fast train terminal at the junction of Gil Puyat (Buendia) Avenue and PNR line in Makati. The MRT-3 Common Station at the intersection of EDSA and North Avenue in Quezon City would be a good site for the second station, if such will likewise be served by or linked to the fast train,” its statement said, noting that an in-city check-in facility will provide passengers the added convenience of dropping off their baggage before they board the train.

Pending the train service, the group is also recommending the setting up of transport connection from the check-in stations to NAIA and to Clark via point-to-point (P2P) airport limousine service.

While concerted efforts to upgrade NAIA could extend its life, MAP said it would be ideal if the government were to plot a “definite path” for the country’s main airport before the administration bows out of office in 2022.

“We believe that, together with the other components of the envisioned aviation system, optimization will extend the usefulness of NAIA for another eight to ten years. However, we strongly recommend that the government look beyond that time frame and plan for the long term sustainable future of NAIA. Studies have been made to increase the airside capacity of NAIA with the construction of a new parallel runway. Others involve complementing or replacing NAIA with a new airport.”

“It would be ideal that before the end of the current administration in 2022, a definite path be plotted for the future of NAIA,” it said.

MAP said centralized management of the entire aviation system under a single authority “would appear to be a preferable organizational structure” to oversee the whole aviation system and “for expeditious decision-making, better control, and efficient coordination.”

“This does not preclude the setting up of a separate managing board for each facility under the supervision of the centralized authority. Also, the outsourcing of operation and maintenance (O&M) of each facility using the PPP mode is an option. Such outsourcing of O&M would enable the government to avail of private sector expertise, technology, and incentive system for efficient O&M of the facilities without giving up ownership and control of strategic capital assets for aviation,” it added.

The Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA) said in an earlier report that the Philippines will eventually need to build a new airport to accommodate increasing passenger traffic, and immediately implement measures to decongest the country’s main gateway like transitioning to a single runway operation and increasing capacity through upgrades of its four terminals as infrastructure constraints in the country have “limited growth” at Manila in recent years.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade recently said the government is still open for offers to build a new international airport in Manila. However, the government’s current “priority” is expanding Clark Airport and rehabilitating NAIA.

Currently, there are unsolicited proposals to build a new airport from two groups, one led by All-Asia Resources & Reclamation Corp., (ARRC), which teamed up with the Sy family’s Belle Corp., for a $50-billion proposal to develop an airport and economic zone at Sangley Point. Another group led by San Miguel Corp.’s Ramon S. Ang had earlier proposed a $10-billion airport on reclaimed land in Manila Bay.

The government has been promoting the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark as an alternative gateway to help decongest the NAIA in Manila which accounts for nearly 90% of all domestic passengers in the Philippines and more than 80% of all international passengers.

NAIA, the fifth-largest airport in Southeast Asia, handled 39.5 million passengers in 2016, well over its designed capacity of 30.5 million passengers per year. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin