Duterte alternate airport plan draws praise
CLARK FREEPORT—The directive of President Duterte to develop this free port and the Clark International Airport (CRK) was met with praise as well as guarded optimism.
Alex Cauguiran, head of the recently-convened coalition Advocacy for Dual Airport Priority (Adapt), said the President’s pronouncements “validated his statement” about making the CRK an active international gateway.
“I believe he is sincere in developing the CRK. He said he would discourage new factories in Metro Manila and instead encourage them outside,” said Cauguiran, who met with Mr. Duterte on June 13.
“We also discussed that in the ‘certainty of development’ of Clark, support services, industries, investments and generation of employment will follow and all these will lead to development in the region,” Cauguiran added.
Ruperto Cruz, chair of the multisectoral coalition Pinoy Gumising Ka Movement, said the President’s instruction to Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade in the first Cabinet meeting to develop Clark “has our support.”
“I think he means well. But it remains to be seen whether Tugade will [fulfill] the plan,” Cruz said. He did not elaborate.
Tugade, in a telephone interview on Friday, said he would “seriously implement” Mr. Duterte’s marching order concerning Clark and the CRK. Clark used to be a US Air Force base while the CRK once served as the Military Airlift Command within the base. These facilities closed after the Philippine Senate ordered the closure of American bases in the country.
In the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, Mr. Duterte addressed Metro Manila’s congestion problems by asking Tugade, “What if we make a road … a new road going to Pampanga airport so that some domestic flights can be transferred there?”
“If we can have a road … then just transfer flights to Pampanga so they don’t clog the [Ninoy Aquino International Airport]. The best in the meantime is one road network that will be geared toward Pampanga and Clark so we can use the [CRK],” Mr. Duterte said.
During the election campaign, he said a fast train linking Manila and Clark would make the CRK useful to travelers.
Adapt had been urging Mr. Duterte during the election campaign to define and implement a dual airport strategy for CRK and NAIA, to implement the CRK master plan by restoring the 8-million passenger capacity of a terminal in Phase 1, and to direct government agencies to make pre-employment procedures and services available near or within the CRK.
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