Push for Clark airport as replacement for Naia grows in House
Legislators appeared to be divided over whether a new airport or improvements to Clark International Airport (CRK) would be the best replacement for the country’s decaying gateway, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
At a hearing on Wednesday by the House committee on transportation, lawmakers expressed support for a proposal by business conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) to build an entirely new airport in Bulacan.
But one congressman raised doubts that it was the ideal solution to the country’s need for a decent airport that would serve as main gateway.
At the hearing, Ed Monreal, Manila International Airport Authority general manager, said it was time for the government to invest on a new airport with two parallel runways.
Monreal said this would prevent a repeat of the near paralysis that gripped Naia when a XiamenAir flight run aground.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said SMC’s proposal to build a new international airport on a 2,500-hectare parcel of land in Bulacan offered the best alternative to the decaying Naia.
The proposed airport would have initially four runways. Two more runways could be added.
But Deputy Speaker Rep. Prospero Pichay said developing CRK was a better alternative since CRK management was already working on a second runway.
The second runway could help CRK better respond to emergencies, like the grounding of the XiamenAir flight at Naia, according to Alex Cauguiran, Clark International Airport Corp. president, at a hearing of the House transportation committee on Sept. 5.
Cauguiran said building a second runway for CRK would not get in the way of the proposals to build new airports.
“Clark needs a new secondary parallel runway to allow simultaneous takeoffs and landings to easily decongest the overcrowded Naia pending the construction of proposed airports either in Bulacan or in Cavite,” he said at the hearing.
The proposed new runway, estimated to cost P2.5 billion and including navigational systems and equipment, would also support operations of CRK’s Terminal 2 that began construction in December 2017, Cauiguiran said.
The P15-billion Terminal 2 was designed to serve 8 to 10 million passengers annually.
Airlines diverted 43 flights to CRK at the height of the XiamenAir mess.
Cauguiran said the US 13th Air Force’s military airlift command, the precursor of CRK, used to have two runways before Clark Air Base was closed after the rejection of the extension of 1947 Military Bases Agreement on Sept. 16, 1991.
The newer runway, completed in January 1991, spanned 3.2 kilometers and became the primary runway.
The older runway was decommissioned, because it did not have navigational aids and lights and had surface cracks.
Pichay said the completion of a new runway in Clark would remove the “need for us building an airport in Bulacan because it’s near Naia.”
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