THE Philippines is targeting to have a new international airport in operation by 2025 to meet rising demand which the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) cannot meet despite its ongoing upgrade, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) said.
The DOTC said the government is being assisted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in its plan to put up a new airport to decongest NAIA, which is nearing overcapacity.
“What JICA gave us was an interim report on the location. That is being processed now by NEDA [National Economic and Development Authority]. A full feasibility study should have been done by March or April but realistically, what you could expect is a NEDA Board approval on a location, not the project itself. That will be subject of a separate approval,” DOTC Secretary Emilio Joseph Abaya told reporters.
Abaya explained: “The NEDA Board decision is just on the location because a lot of businessmen will appreciate a formal government decision [as to]where the next airport will be, then they could plan on how to adjust their operation. Location — that’s one decision we can make for the next administration, deciding where the next airport will be and also for business and ordinary folks.”
“Sangley is a logical decision for it. It’s too big, too far also; roughly we are still on schedule; The Japanese are meticulous. We are looking at 2025 as the operational year for the new NAIA,” Abaya said.
The DOTC earlier cited Sangley Point as a possible option for the location of a new international airport.
Abaya said earlier that JICA recognizes the merits of Sangley Point as it is only 20 minutes by land to and from Metro Manila. Another option is a reclaimed piece of land along Laguna de Bay.
He added that it was very difficult to look for a 2,000-hectare piece of land in Metro Manila that can host a new international airport.
The DOTC has long noted that a new international airport was needed amid rising demand which the seriously congested NAIA could not meet despite an ongoing upgrade of facilities.
While four terminals are already in place, NAIA has only one primary runway (and a secondary runway mostly for smaller planes) to accommodate about 550 planes landing and taking off per day. This has created serious congestion and countless flight delays, especially during peak travel seasons.
The administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has also pursued—with limited success—a policy of shifting traffic away from Manila toward other growth centers like Clark in Pampanga.
Maximizing NAIA runway use
The DOTC has enlisted British firm NATS, renowned worldwide for its air traffic management expertise, to maximize runway use at the NAIA to ease congestion at the country’s primary gateway airport.
NATS provides air traffic navigation services to the world’s busiest single- and dual-runway airports: London Gatwick handles 53 air traffic movements (ATMs) per hour and over 250,000 flights per year; and London Heathrow handles 90 ATMs per hour and over 470,000 flights per year.
It has boosted runway capacity at the Hong Kong International Airport by 30 percent. It also redesigned Dubai’s Al Maktoum International Airport’s airspace, and is now tasked to increase ATMs at the Singapore Changi Airport.
The P66-million NAIA Runway Optimization project was awarded to the joint venture between NATS Services Limited and Schema Konsult, Inc. Over the contract’s 12-month span, the group will aim to increase hourly ATMs from 40 to 60, by determining the optimal configuration for the airport’s intersecting runways.
The roadmap for short- and long-term improvements will focus on the following outcomes:
• Optimization of runway capacity by cutting aircraft’s occupancy times;
• Developing air traffic controllers’ (ATC) surveillance capabilities through technology and determining needed alterations to access points; and
• Maximization of available airspace by reducing restrictions and making procedural improvements to tighten intervals between aircraft movements.
In the first six months, NATS will conduct a comprehensive evaluation of the following: the airport’s current airspace, runway, and terminal capacities; air traffic and surface operations; runway access points; and ATC training for the first six months.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) will then implement the recommended improvement measures over the ensuing six months.
These agencies have also implemented certain steps to help ease runway congestion, such as the reactivation of Runway 31 in July and the relocation of general aviation activities.
Passenger traffic up
Local carriers’ promotional seats and lowest fare offerings have boosted domestic air traffic in the first quarter, with passengers reaching 5.23 million, up from 5.14 million in the same period last year.
Data from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) showed that budget carrier Cebu Pacific remains the preferred domestic airline, followed by PAL Express, AirAsia Zest, Tiger Airways, and Philippine Airlines.
Cebu Pacific carried 2.66 million passengers during the first quarter while PAL Express flew 1.17 million passengers. AirAsia Zest carried 500,139 passengers, Tiger Airways flew 456,122 passengers and Philippine Airlines had 327,716 passengers.
To stimulate travel, Cebu Pacific offered a 50 percent-off seat sale last May 3 or until seats last, for travel from July 1, 2015 to March 15, 2016.
On the other hand, AirAsia earlier offered AirAsia Piso Fares with more than 3 million seats up for grabs for travel to over 20 countries across AirAsia Group’s wide route network, including AirAsia X.
Meanwhile, international air passenger traffic in the Philippines reached 5.34 million in the first quarter this year, up 28 percent from 4.18 million in the same period last year.