Home » Opinion » Editorial » Solving NAIA’s long-standing problems

Solving NAIA’s long-standing problems

The basic problem of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is one of capacity. On average, its two runways handled around 730 aircraft movements (take-offs and landings) a day in 2017. NAIA handled 42 million passengers that year, split between domestic and international sectors.

A report issued by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2015 anticipates 60 million NAIA passengers by 2025 and 72 million by 2030, in line with the country’s expected economic growth. To meet this expected demand, it is critical that airside and terminal capacities be addressed simultaneously, according to the GMR Megawide consortium, a joint venture of Megawide Construction Corp. and Indian company GMR Airports, Ltd., which has submitted a proposal to expand NAIA’s capacity.

NAIA’s most critical constraint is the limited airfield capacity which limits its ability to accommodate more flights. It also has a reduced ability to control delays related to aircraft movement, thereby worsening terminal congestion, according to Louie Ferrer, consortium representative. It thus proposes the construction of full-length lanes parallel to the two runways and several rapid-exit taxiways. The idea is to have arriving airliners exit the runways at the soonest possible time so these can be quickly used by the next aircraft. The second runway will be lengthened as well.

For this project, the consortium proposes to invest $3 billion for a concession period of 18 years, during which it expects to increase NAIA’s capacity to 72 million passengers a year.

This is the second major proposal for NAIA made in recent months. The first was from a consortium composed of seven of the country’s biggest conglomerates – Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc., the Ayalas’ AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Andrew Tan’s Alliance Global Group, Inc., Lucio Tan’s Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp., the Gotianuns’ Filinvest Development Corp., the Gokongweis’ JG Summit Holdings, and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

This consortium proposes to invest R7 billion to expand NAIA’s capacity to 55 million passengers a year, for a concession period of 35 years. It plans a first phase of improvement and expansion of NAIA’s terminals and a second phase to develop additional runways, taxiways, terminals, and other structures. It has tapped Changi Airports International Pte., Ltd., for technical support in planning and operations.

There are other proposals to develop other airports in the country, including one off Sangley Point in Cavite, in Bulacan, and expansion of Clark International Airport. Development is now proceeding at Clark as its runways, built by the US Air Force, are there already and it has thousands of hectares available for expansion. It has already began to absorb much of the air traffic from NAIA and will be key to the development of Central Luzon.

But NAIA remains the principal gateway to Metro Manila and its expansion and rehabilitation will be a major undertaking of the Duterte administration. With two major proposals before it, the administration, the Department of Transportation in particular, has a major decision to make. We look forward to the ensuing project that will solve the long-standing problems at NAIA, the Philippines’ main gateway to Metro Manila and to the entire country.