THE national government has finally made a decision to make greater use of Clark International Airport, an asset that has long been underused, even as arriving and departing airliners are delayed as they wait for their turn at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City.
Over the years, one domestic and three international terminals have been built at NAIA but the number of plane arrivals and departures have been limited to 40 an hour, because NAIA has only one long runway, intersected by a shorter one. There was talk of building another runway but all the surrounding land has now been taken over by residential areas. There just is no room for expansion in its 6.7 hectares of land.
In contrast, Clark has over 4,000 hectares of land. It has two giant runways built by the United States Air Force for its 13th Air Force which flew giant bombers and jet fighters in World War II and during the Korean War and Vietnam War. In case of an emergency, the runways could accommodate the US Space Shuttle.
Because of the traffic jams in Metro Manila which caused many passengers to miss their planes, some airlines have already moved to Clark. Over 6,000 passengers now depart Clark daily, including many OFWs flying to their work sites in many countries around the world.
The government has been reluctant to move the nation’s principal airport from Metro Manila or nearby, in part because NAIA is at the nation’s principal commercial and government center. Thus it considered two unsolicited proposals for entirely new airports close by – on reclaimed land off the coast of Sangley, Cavite, and in a field in Bulacan.
This week, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) announced that it has set aside the two unsolicited proposals for a while, in favor of starting the long-postponed development of Clark in Pampanga. DoTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said he will be talking to parties that have submitted proposals for Clark. One is a group of GMR Infrastructure, Ltd., of India and Megawide Construction Corp. which submitted a P200-billion proposal; another is JG Summit Holdings and Filinvest Development Corp. with a P187-billion proposal.
The proposals for new airports off Cavite and in Bulacan will remain under study for possible implementation ten years from now. But the urgent need for airport space and services now will be met by Clark with the long put-off decision announced by the Department of Transportation this week.