TODAY, we live in a world of what used to be impossible. It is a world that Leonardo da Vinci and renaissance men before us have dreamt of: flying men. It was just once but a thought to build contraption and mechanics that would allow men to soar through the sky, and travel the world faster. More than just a dream, there was a sense of practicality for air transport. When Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the world and arrived on the shore of what would be called the Philippine Islands, generally people of the West feared the Galleons that traveled the Asia Pacific. While there is the sense of adventure and discovery, one must be prepared to face that tragedy was relatively high while voyaging the high seas: tragedy either from shipwreck or spread of disease.
In the onset of the 21st century, the two-year travel of the renaissance cities was reduced to 13-hour flights in crossing western to the eastern world. The world certainly became smaller, as technological innovation for airplanes prospered. Today, we are living in the future cities.
The evolution of cities and transport
The 14th to the 17th century, cities were port-driven. Through it, the spices of Asia became the subject for expedition. Salt, herbs and spices that are usually accessible in our kitchens today used to be whims of kings and patriarchs. But after 300 years, in the 18th century, trains were invented and people were thrilled that land transportation became faster and the carrying capacity for materials increased a hundred fold: the cities became railway-driven.
In the 19th century, technological breakthroughs in mechanics and electricity were the hottest topic for scientists and inventors. One of the most important products of the scientific revolution in term of transportation is the automobile. Until the mid-20th century, the1950’s, cities had replaced the horses with cars and more freeways were built: the cities became freeway-driven.
From late 20th century and onto the 21st century, people are able to navigate the skies with commercial and private planes. The airline industry eventually finds a new wealth: tourism. But more than tourism, it is aiding movement and a new era for cultural assimilation. Today, airports drive the economies of nations and cities around the world. In the United Arab Emirates (UAE), it has become the tool to move from the oil industry to tourism and trade.
In 2014, China has accommodated 53 million tourist arrivals, Dubai at 12 million and the Philippines at 5 million. The main mode of transportation was through air transport. One can just imagine how many people arrive in the airports, and eventually to the cities.
In a study done by economist Jan Brueckner to find the connection between airline passengers and regional employment growth, he found out that a 10-percent increase in passengers generates a 1-percent increase in regional employment. It even contributed to the increase in knowledge and service-based businesses. According to Greg Lindsay, author of Aerotropolis: The way we’ll live next, the flow of data is directly proportional to the flow of people. This proves that airports, among all other transportation modes, have a bigger effect on economic development by people over cargo.
Through tourist arrivals, demand for local services had soared to new levels that it actually generated more demand for the supply of local products. More importantly, it generated more jobs, most especially in the hotel and service industry. It is without a doubt that economies are greatly affected by air transport. Putting things into perspective, the airport is the front door to our home, our country. As a gateway, travelers must feel a strong sense of arrival. A person needs to be a satisfied tourist first before he or she becomes an investor. That is why airports are planned, designed, and operated immaculately to give travelers the best impression of a country or a city.
With the world population reaching 9.6 billion in 2050, the Philippine government needs to improve the capacity of our airports to support air traffic. Currently, our major airport is the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Another emerging infrastructure is the Clark International Airport.
Metro Manila is also rapidly growing at 60 persons per hour. Aside from NAIA and CIA, we would need another airport South of Luzon, particularly in the Calabarzon area. Southward expansion remains strong, anchored by developments in Alabang, Canlubang, Tagaytay, and Batangas Port.
Learning from Dubai
Dubai was one of the few cities in the world that had the vision and the aplomb to fearlessly invest in technologies and structures that were still new ideas back then, like the concept of the aerotropolis, freeports, freezones, and e-cities. More than that, they have the visionary leadership of Sheikh Rashid who also exercised political will, good governance, good planning, and good design.
The Dubai Ali Jebel Airport is expected to be the world’s largest airport once completed. It will be bigger than the Heathrow and Chicago O’Hare airports combined. Most airports being developed today are much more than just aviation infrastructures. They now have become multimodal and multifunctional enterprises with the ability to generate significant commercial and economic development within and well beyond their boundaries.
It is worth to know that Dubai, took less than15 years to transform itself from the desertinto a first world city. If we apply the best practices from all over the world, the Philippines can be in the world’s top economies by 2021.