POSTSCRIPT / April 8, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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End NAIA capacity, efficiency troubles

WE’VE come upon a proposed answer to the overcrowding and inefficiency problems plaguing the Ninoy Aquino International Airport – at no cost to the government and without having to expropriate more land, build another runway, and reclaim nearby bay areas.

The proposal, submitted March 1 to the Department of Transportation, does not entail any government subsidy, equity or guarantee, in full compliance with the Build-Operate-Transfer Law. All assets will be handed over to the government, absolutely free of cost, at the end of an 18-year concession term.

The NAIA complex in Pasay City was designed for a capacity of only 31 million passengers yearly, but is forced to serve 42 million split among its Terminal-1 (7.7 million), T-2 used by Philippine Airlines (9.6 million), T3 used by various airlines (20.6 million) and the domestic T-4 (4.2 million) as of 2017.

For so long, NAIA had been a national embarrassment, listed among the worst airports in the world in the view of airlines and travelers. It was only this year that it has been acknowledged as among the most improved.

Comes now the consortium Megawide GMR with a proposal that would boost passenger capacity to 72 million within six years — by maximizing use of existing land area, upgrading some facilities while building new ones, and making flow of all elements more efficient.

The proposal was explained by Andrew Acquaah-Harrison, chief executive advisor of Megawide GMR, in a forum Friday of the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga.

The consortium has just been awarded the Engineering Procurement Construction contract for upgrading Clark International Airport. The contract value is P9.36 billion, around 25 percent lower than the government budget of P12.55 billion. Completion is expected by 2020.

With the engineering firm Megawide as Philippine partner, the consortium is also building Terminal-2 of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, a previously obscure facility that has become the CAPA Center for Aviation 2016 Best Regional Airport in Asia Pacific.

The Indian infrastructure firm and airport operator GMR boasts of transforming Delhi International Airport, once rated among the world’s worst airports (possibly even worse than NAIA), into being No. 1 in the Airport Service Quality survey of Airports Council International.

Answering questions, Harrison favored having NAIA and Clark operate as twin international gateways to spread air and passenger traffic and thereby ease their respective load. He said Clark has great potentials as a major gateway.

He added that opening another airport in-between, such as in Bulacan as suggested by some business interests, would work against the idea of a NAIA-Clark tandem. What should be given priority, he said, is building an express rail link between the two airports.

• Highlights of Megawide GMR proposal

HARRISON said the Megawide GMR proposal for NAIA, under a BOT scheme, submitted March 1 to the DoTr, aims to boost the capacity and efficiency of NAIA by:

>Addressing NAIA’s main problem of limited airfield capacity — Limited airfield capacity limits the airport’s capability to accommodate more flights. The consortium plans infrastructure development to increase passenger processing capacity by more than 50 percent.

>More than doubling passenger handling capacity – The proposal will more than double the passenger terminal areas, increasing the passenger handling capacity to 60 million passengers per annum in four years and to 72 million in six years upon start of construction.

>Shortening the concession period – The consortium proposes a shorter concession term of 18 years. The term will balance two objectives: providing flexibility and time for government to refine its multi-airport system strategy while addressing NAIA’s immediate problems.

>Collaborating with the world’s foremost expert in cross-runway airports — The consortium has tapped the expertise of MITRE, the US-based expert with decades of experience in maximizing aircraft handling capacities at cross-runway airports, which are common in the United States and similar to NAIA.

>Avoiding the unviable idea of a third runway on Manila Bay – After assessing the third runway solution against the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the consortium concluded that the operational, environmental and safety challenges associated with having this additional runway make this solution not viable.

>Ensuring maximum value for the government in minimum time – The Megawide GWR proposal does not entail any subsidy, equity or guarantee from the government, in full compliance with the BOT Law. Valued at P150-billlion, the project is structured in such a way that all assets will be handed over to the government, free of cost, at the end of the concession term.

• PAL to reduce Caticlan, Kalibo flights

IN VIEW of the closure of Boracay island effective April 26, Philippine Airlines said it would reduce flights to Caticlan and Kalibo airports for six-months and expand flights to other destinations to support local tourism.

The airline said it would operate nine weekly flights between Manila and Kalibo (PR 2969 and 2970) and seven weekly flights (PR2041/2042) between Manila and Caticlan to maintain links to these gateways to Boracay and Aklan province.

All other Caticlan and Kalibo flights from Manila would be suspended from April 20 to Oct. 27, while flights to Caticlan from Cebu and Clark would be suspended from April 26 to Oct. 27.

PAL president Jaime Bautista said: “Boracay is a national treasure. We fully support the government’s intention to make Boracay fully safe and environmentally friendly. Sustainable development is of critical concern, and we are one with the laudable goal to revert the island to a balanced eco-tourism paradise.

“We seek the understanding of our passengers as your flag carrier and the aviation industry cooperate in this multi-sectoral endeavor. In the long-term, a safe and revitalized Boracay will benefit all stakeholders in the travel and tourism sectors, and the Filipino people as a whole.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of April 8, 2018)

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