By Mario Casayuran
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian has scored the Department of Transportation (DOTr) after transportation officials admitted they did not consult airlines before drafting the Greater Metro Manila Airport Strategy.
The strategy seeks to develop three additional airports in the Greater Metro Manila area to solve the overcapacity problem at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
“Without consulting the airlines, how would this four-airport strategy become effective?” Gatchalian asked DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade during the inquiry into the Xiamen Airlines runway accident by Sen. Grace Poe’s Committee on Public Services.
Gatchalian’s question was in reference to the orchestrated plan to rehabilitate NAIA; expand the Clark International Airport; and build the proposed Bulacan and Sangley international airports.
“What the airlines want are more flights in one airport so that passengers will have the option to choose the time of the flight they want. You already have four airports so if PAL (Philippine Airlines) has four flights, what will happen is they will have one flight per airport?” he asked.
Gatchalian requested the DOTr to submit to the Senate committee the department’s aviation roadmap and a detailed report on the Greater Metro Manila Airport Strategy.
These documents, he stressed, are “the heart of the concern right now.”
Gatchalian also chided the DOTr for being unable to give a ready answer on the demand projections for air passengers when the four airports are already operating simultaneously, noting the proposals for the development of a four-airport system were proponent-driven.
“Is it not important we determine the demand first? Because from what I can see right now, the strategy is proponent-driven, meaning what is being proposed by the proponents is what is being followed. But we cannot see what is best for the passengers,” he said.
“Of course the proponents will propose something that will maximize their profits, but what about the passengers?” he asked.
The DOTr said once the development of the four airports is completed, they would have a combined capacity of 247 million passengers, with 65 million for NAIA, 12 million for Clark, 100 million for Bulacan, and 70 million for Sangley.
Sangley is a former US naval base in Cavite City.