House panel wants master plan for Clark airport as alternative to Naia
The House of Representatives has directed government officials to prepare a master plan for a proposed move to use the Clark International Airport as an alternative to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), the country’s busiest gateway.
During the House transportation committee hearing on Wednesday, Catanduanes Rep. Cesar Sarmiento ordered the Department of Transportation and Communications to take the lead in meeting with the other concerned agencies for the master plan to be submitted on Jan. 2016.
These are the Civil Aeronautics Board, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and the Clark International Airport Corp.
“To speed up matters, this committee would like the groups (to) present an action master plan considering Clark as an alternative airport to Naia… to be submitted in January,” Sarmiento said.
“Matagal na nating pinag-uusapan ito; puro na lang tayo usapan. If you could assemble and meet and present a masterplan, we could have it submitted to the proper authorities for immediate action,” he added.
The House is considering Clark as an alternative airport amid problems of congestion and flight delays in Naia, the country’s busiest airport.
The chamber also wants to address the issue ahead of the Christmas holidays when deluges of passengers fly in and out of the country.
Sarmiento mentioned the experience of Cebu Pacific in last year’s Christmas rush, when stranded irate passengers were stranded at the Naia supposedly because of overbooking. Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Gokongwei has personally apologized to the company’s patrons in a House hearing in January 2015.
Cebu Pacific has paid a P52 million fine for inconveniencing the passengers.
“We called this meeting in anticipation of December when we would celebrate the first anniversary (of the Cebu Pacific fiasco). We welcome collecting the P52 million by way of fines. We don’t want that to happen again,” Sarmiento said.
Airline losses during Apec
Pampanga Rep. Joseller “Yeng” Guiao, a former basketball coach, cited the millions of airline companies’ losses due to cancelled flights during the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec) Summit, saying airlines could have been spared from losses if flights were diverted to Clark.
Philippine Airlines (PAL) cancelled over 700 flights, while Cebu Air cancelled 847 flights for the arrival of heads of state for the Apec summit in Manila airports.
Cebu Pacific rerouted four of its domestic flights to Clark as government reserved Naia for the arrival of heads of Apec member economies.
Due to the cancelled flights during the Apec week, Philippine Airlines reportedly lost $18.7 million (over P880 million), while Cebu Air lost an estimated P400 million in revenues.
“Katatapos lang ng Apec. We’ve read in newspapers that PAL and Cebu Pacific lost a lot of money just cancelling flights… Instead of losing 800 million or 50 million dollars, if you just set up something in Clark, you give (passengers) an option to land in Clark because you cannot land in Naia; you can also reduce inconvenience and airline losses,” Guiao said.
Marlene Singson, supervising air traffic control officer of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), said there are instances that flights exceed the standard 40 movements of flight per hour.
Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Chief Legal Officer Wyrlou Samodio told the hearing that more studies are needed in using Clark airport as an alternative to Naia.
“It’s a long process we have to undergo before everything becomes feasible. Logistics wise, it’s not easy to transfer people from one place to another. I think we have to take a thorough study, or at least prepare Clark before we transfer flights from Clark to Manila,” Samodio said.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.