By Jonas Reyes
Subic Bay Freeport – Philippine Air Lines (PAL) chairman Dr. Lucio Tan made an ocular inspection on Sunday at the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA) where the flag carrier plans to put up a flying school.
Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairperson Atty. Wilma Eisma welcomed the arrival of the Filipino billionaire as the agency’s officials gave Tan a tour of the airport’s facilities.
During the visit, Tan inquired about the state of facilities at the airport terminal, as well as other business potentials and tourism facilities that would complement an aviation-related investment.
“He was all smiles since moment he landed at the SBIA on board his helicopter,” Eisma said.
“The SBMA technical working group made a presentation showing the full potential of the Subic airport and I believe he was very much impressed.”
The PAL chairman, along with his entourage, inspected the Subic airport terminal, and asked for areas that could possibly be used for restaurants or passenger lounges.
Eisma, meanwhile, briefed him of the design and purpose of the terminal and pointed out that it used to accommodate local and international flights.
“Despite not being fully utilized, the SBIA equipment all work properly. We have kept them in tip-top shape,” Eisma pointed out.
The SBIA, which was completed in 1996 in time for Subic’s hosting of the APEC summit, boasts of a 10,000-square meter passenger terminal that has two gates, two jet ways, a closed-circuit television system, and a 9,000-foot runway.
It also has a military ramp at the southwest area, which is used by US Air Force planes under the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.
Tan and his group also went on a rolling tour of the Subic Bay Freeport Zone, and looked into areas such as the Alava Wharf and the Cubi residential area.
The businessman, who asked if there were enough hotels that could accommodate the possible influx of airline passengers in Subic, was said to be upbeat on the tourism sites that abound in the Freeport.
Eisma said the agency is now aggressively promoting Subic as an aviation hub and is entertaining all possible options to maximize the use of its airport facilities.
“It is a challenge to us to get SBIA running. We’re all for these suggestions to turn Subic into an aviation hub that would cater to tourists, as well as traders because that would mean more business for the Freeport,” she added.