The Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce of the Philippines (JFC) has expressed support to developing the Clark International Airport (CRK) as the viable alternative to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila.
In a roundtable meeting organized by the American Chamber of Commerce with the JFC, Alexander Cauguiran, president and CEO of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), presented to the group an update of the airport’s development.
Cauguiran cited that CIAC’s plans are aligned with the joint foreign chambers’ advocacy on infrastructure, through the JFC’s The Arangkada Philippines Project, to increase investment and employment in the Philippines.
“The geography of (Metro) Manila just doesn’t support (NAIA) where it is, and is not long-term viable,” Ebb Hinchliffe, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce, said.
In 2016, Arangkada Philippines called for a new Clark airport terminal, to incentivize low-cost carriers to develop hubs at Clark, to exploit airport infrastructure and road networks, and to create new commercial and residential hubs at Clark to decongest Metro Manila.
Earlier, AmCham senior adviser John Forbes said the new airport terminal in Clark should be built in the next two years, with a non-stop fast train connecting service similar to that in Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Tokyo to elevate traffic congestion.
“Clark should be the proper alternative and the idea of decongesting (Metro) Manila should be moving the industries and the government offices either north or south of the metropolis,” Benjamin Solis, chief executive officer of South East Asian International (SEAIR), said.
The present NAIA grows at an average of two million passengers a year for the last seven years, the aviation executive added.
Cauguiran said CIAC immediately went to work upon heeding President Rodrigo Duterte’s statement in his first SONA in 2016 that the Clark airport can be utilized to shift some operations of domestic and international airlines.
“Here we are, so far, and soon, Clark airport will have a new passenger terminal building before President Duterte’s term ends, thanks to the leadership of (Transportation) Secretary Art Tugade,” Cauguiran said, adding that Clark’s domestic and international flights were increased in only the first quarter of this year.
Clark International Airport (CRK) serviced 950,732 passengers in 2016. It is projecting to service approximately 1.5 million passengers by end of 2017.
At present, CRK has 138 weekly international flights and 94 weekly domestic flights.
This is seen to increase more this year with the expansion of operations of domestic carriers in Clark specifically PAL, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Asia, Wakay Air, and SEAIR Philippines.
Negotiations are also ongoing for international carriers to start operations at Clark airport by mid-2017.
"Clark will become cemented as the logical choice. Hopefully, we’ll get over the point where there is a terminal and there will be momentum,” Jaime Faustino, program director of The Asia Foundation, said.
Among the priority projects of the national government's "Build, Build, Build" program is a Manila-Clark airport express rail that is targeted for completion in 2021.
This project is in addition to the Clark-Subic railway project that is planned for completion in 2020. (PNA)Marna Dagumboy-Del Rosario