Dual Airport System for PH

Is it time for the Philippines to adopt a Dual Airport System?

At the Asia CEO Forum, Alex Cauguiran, president of the Clark International Airport Corp or CIAC presented to the participants the long term plans of CIAC.  Cauguiran presented the concept of Dual Airport System by repositioning Clark (CRK) as the gateway to Northern and Central Luzon, while Manila (MNL) would be the airport for South Luzon.

Presently, there are 11 international airports across the archipelago. 5 in Luzon, 3 in Visayas and 3 in Mindanao.  Under a dual gateway system, both Clark Airport and NAIA will be used as the main gateways to the Philippines even while a replacement for NAIA is prepared.

Three options presented to then President Aquino were: “1) transfer all flight operations to Clark and operate it as a single primary gateway for the country; 2) maintain Clark and NAIA while making preparations for a future replacement for NAIA; and 3) support growth at Clark and maximize operations at NAIA until 2025 at which time the government would analyze if the system was effective and suitable for the country.”

Government should intervene and make a commitment for a complete and holistic approach taking into consideration future growth and infrastructure development as well as the urgent need to bring out development from Metro Manila.  Two issues that seem to drive government against the dual airport system are the distance of Clark from Manila, which may not sit well with the business community and airlines not willing to transfer to Clark.  Weigh these against the traffic gridlock going to the South of Manila where travelling to Clark is an easier route than to Paranaque and Las Pinas and the overwhelming congestion of NAIA due to the limited runway and facilities.  NAIA handled 39.5 million passengers last year against its design capacity of 31 million passengers annually.

Cauguiran stressed that North Luzon has a total catchment population of 21.4 million covering Regions I, II, III and CAR alone.  If CAMANAVA is added, that will be a total of 21.5 million for CRK.   MNL on the other hand will have a total catchment population of 30.3 million coming from NCR (less CAMANAVA); Regions IV-A and Bicol.

CRK can directly connect to various destinations.  Clark is in the province of Pampanga which is host to the Lantern Festival and the Pinatubo Crater Lake.  It can connect to famous Philippine destinations such as Boracay, Davao, Cebu, Palawan and Balesin. 

There are 7 foreign and 2 domestic air services using Clark today.  These are Asiana Airlines, Dragon Air, Jin Air, Emirates, Quatar Airways, Air Asia and Tigerair.  Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines are also operating in Clark.

Clark has an extensive road network connecting Northern Luzon such as the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, North Luzon Expressway, Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway and the Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Aurora Expressway.

Two private sector proposals have been submitted to the previous government.  These are from “San Miguel Corporation and a consortium made up of businessman Wilson Tieng and taipan Henry Sy Sr. SMC made a proposal for an ‘aerotropolis’ on roughly 2,000 hectares of land in Bulacan.  The airport itself would have at least 4 runways and would be located 40 minutes from the Makati City, the financial center of the country.  The Tieng and Sy-led All-Asia Resources and Reclamation Corp. proposed to reclaim about 2,500 hectares of land in offshore Sangley Point, Cavite.  It would then be redeveloped into a new airport, seaport and industrial estate.”

Cover Photo taken from gov.ph