Business groups back proposed international airport in Bulacan

By  Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat 

The recent debacle at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has forced businessmen to call on government to consider the unsolicited proposal of San Miguel Corporation to build, operate, and maintain an international gateway in Bulacan for P700 billion.

In a statement, Francis Chua, chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines and chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), said San Miguel’s proposal is the practical answer to the country’s woes at NAIA, the country’s premier international airport.

In a separate statement, PCCI president Alegria “Bing Limjoco said PCCI has consistently called for government to adopt a multi-airport policy where NAIA could be a hub and gateway for domestic air travel, Clark for international flights, and Sangley for general aviation.

Limjoco also said “San Miguel’s proposal for an airport in Bulacan is another project worth considering.”

The Xiamen-NAIA incident is a wake-up call to authorities to address the congestion at NAIA. At the core of the issue are safety concerns, passenger inconvenience and foregone business revenues, all of which have been highlighted this unfortunate incident.

“It is not anymore a question of NAIA’s viability to cater to the increasing number of travelers; it is already known that our premier airport is running above its maximum capacity of 30 million passengers (combined for the 3 terminals),” said Limjoco.

The airport’s facilities – terminal and runway - is greater than the airport’s current capacity hence, even the rehabilitation of Terminal 1, which saw the re-designing of the terminal interiors to provide wider passenger movement areas, is not enough to meet future demands. Further, there is no more room for lateral expansion as NAIA is hemmed between highways and subdivisions.

“It is high time government decides on what to do with NAIA. NAIA congestion has to be resolved soonest or we lost out on more economic opportunities, and again be caught flat-footed without any contingency in place,” she said.

For his part, Chua said that, “After carefully studying all airport proposals today, we strongly believe that San Miguel Corporation’s New Manila International Airport proposal is the best for the Philippines.”

At no cost to the government, and with no subsidies or guarantees required, San Miguel has proposed to build a futuristic “aerotropolis” with up to four parallel runways – which can be expanded further to six.

As an unsolicited proposal, the project will be subject to Swiss challenge. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has already the San Miguel proposal.

With capacity for 60 aircraft movements per runway per hour, this will eliminate all congestion issues and significantly raise our attractiveness as tourism and investment destination in the region.

Its modern air terminals and cargo facilities, along with its own seaport and industrial zone, also make it strategically focused on increasing growth opportunities for our country, and providing more convenience for our countrymen.

It is also the best option when it comes to accessibility. Located just north of Metro Manila in Bulacan, Bulacan, or some 27 kilometers from the present NAIA, it be accessible within 45 minutes or leas from anywhere in Metro Manila via multiple expressways.

Many of the needed infrastructure components are already existing, such as the Skyway system and its ongoing extension projects, and the NLEX. Also under construction is the MRT-7 and MRT-7 road, which will connect to a proposed Airport Expressway.

Apart from this, a Shoreline Expressway from the NAIA expressway cutting through Manila and Navotas straight to the New Manila International Airport, has also been proposed.

“It’s about time we have a truly world-class airport we can all be proud of – one that will rival the best in the region and the world. Our country needs it, and our people deserve it,” he said.

The recent NAIA fiasco, he pointed out, has brought to much clearer light the inherent problems of the NAIA, and why it is no longer sustainable as our country’s main gateway.

He explained that with just two intersecting runways and virtually no space for additional runways, Chua said, NAIA can no longer serve the needs of the growing economy and population, much less be a catalyst for economic growth.

“Government should now put all its efforts to pave the way for, a new international gateway outside of Metro Manila, which will serve as a long-term, future-proof solution to airport congestion problems that have held our country back for so long,” he concluded.