POSTSCRIPT / August 26, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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Clark as NAIA twin? Noy not interested

CLARK NEGLECTED: The prospect of Clark International Airport in Pampanga becoming the twin world gateway of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport is dimming as President Noynoy Aquino, who ironically comes from Central Luzon, nears the end of his term in 2016.

Officials and businessmen in the region have noticed the President’s lack of enthusiasm for upgrading Clark, which has ample space for expansion and world-class parallel runways built by the US Air Force, to complement congested NAIA an hour away by a dedicated rail or bus line.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told Reuters this week that President Aquino has ordered another runway built at NAIA to ease air traffic congestion there. The project, which includes a fourth terminal, will cost at least P2.4 billion.

“The President’s guidance was very clear,” Abaya said. “We’ll find ways to have this completed before his term ends because the benefits are clear.”

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LIKE A RESTO: With just one year before his administration is engulfed by the frenzy of the 2016 election campaign, the President is obviously in a hurry to save NAIA from being one of the world’s worst airports.

Abaya probably sees another runway as a quick fix. He did not say, however, where the runway will be built in the NAIA fringes choked with residential subdivisions.

He said the new runway would increase from 42 to 48 the number of planes taking off and landing per hour. If an additional terminal is built, he added, the take-off and landing rate could rise to at least 58 planes an hour.

Apparently he did not notice that the NAIA situation is much like that of an over-crowded restaurant. Squeezing in another long table without opening more dining space and improving the menu, the kitchen and parking area will not make customer satisfaction any better.

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SPACE PROBLEM: The basic problem of NAIA is lack of space.

With only 700 hectares for terminals, aviation and other related facilities, the airport is hemmed in by the South Luzon Expressway and the Parañaque perimeter road on the northeast and the Multinational Village of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde on the southwest.

In comparison, Clark airport has 2,400 hectares for a world-class passenger terminal, parking aprons, taxiways, cargo handling, aircraft repair and commercial spaces. NAIA and all its facilities can fit in a tiny corner of Clark’s 26,000 hectares.

The only missing link in making Clark the ideal partner of NAIA is a dedicated rail or bus line connecting them. This can run in the middle of the capacious North Luzon Expressway without having to buy right of way.

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TOP RUNWAY: Formerly home base of the US 13th Air Force, Clark has six maintenance hangars, 12 aircraft shelters, five air cargo terminals and two control towers. At the height of the Vietnam war, it took in stride the punishing traffic, including the giant B-52 bombers.

It has two runways, each 3.2 kilometers long, and another runway for small planes. Its wide reinforced concrete runways, made to strict USAF specifications, could take the US Space Shuttle in an emergency, and the C5 Galaxy, largest military cargo plane that can carry more than 150 percent of the workload of a B747.

Its runway configuration allows the airport to handle 30 operations per hour and is capable of up to 100 peak-hour operations with the use of the two independent runways. They have been classified as Category 1, based on ICAO standards.

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UNDERUTILIZED: Waiting to be tapped fully by the administration, Clark is underutilized. Its weekly commercial flights number about 73, with daily flights averaging 11. In 2013, only a million passengers went through it.

The regular flights include: Qatar Airways via Doha; Asiana Airlines via Inchon; JinAir via Incheon; Cebu Pacific Air via Hong Kong, Singapore and Macao; DragonAir via Hong Kong; SEAIR-I via Caticlan; and Cebu Pacific via Cebu. Air Asia Berhad will relaunch Clark-Kuala Lumpur flights on Oct. 17.

Most OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers) from Central Luzon choose to fly through Clark instead of going all the way to the NAIA.

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RENE REACTS: Reacting to our last Postscript “Comelec can trip People’s Initiative,” human rights lawyer Rene Saguisag, one of President Cory Aquino’s closest associates, emailed us:

“People’s Initiative may work in the small cantons of Switzerland. Permit me to doubt, in a country of more than 100M. And the effort can be defeated in any district. Abads in Batanes, Aquinos in Tarlac, Binays in Makati, all the way to the Zubiris in Bukidnon, and other fiefdoms.

“We cannot keep our feet planted firmly in midair. The effort can be worthy of a better cause. It seems to me the effort last July 24 to rally against China was a dud.(?)

“On the JDF, let’s keep it. But, let’s recognize the power of the purse of the elected. On the JDF, Sec. 3 of PD No. 1949 says only the unelected Chief Justice can decide what to do with billions. Macoy might have seen the arrangement as a way to control the CJ.

“Maybe the law may be modified to include two more senior Justices in the panel on what to do with the billions. And the Chairs of the relevant House and Senate Committees. The judiciary is not autonomous or independent from the people.

“And the Supreme Court and the COA should implement the quarterly reporting requirement to ALL executive judges, which (Sec. 3, PD No. 1949) the scofflaw constitutional institutions have ignored. No, the SC cannot be autonomous from the people.

“Over the years, I have promised my studes pasado if they could produce such quarterly accounting from any exec judge. Up to now, wala pa po. Nada. Angapo.

“What is the SC hiding?”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 26, 2014)

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