EIGHT years from now, the lone runway in the Mactan Cebu International Airport (MCIA) will probably reach full capacity, according to a bill filed in the House of Representatives.

Cebu City North District Rep. Raul del Mar based his projection on a benchmark set by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which had said that one runway’s capacity is about 202,000 aircraft movements each year, assuming 16 hours of operations per day.

Del Mar asked that the transportation department, as soon as possible, start the project development process for the construction of Mactan airport’s second runway.

In 2015, 62,213 flights passed through Mactan, according to its website (www.mciaa.gov.ph). From January to August this year, 47,716 flights—or nearly 6,000 flights a month, on average—arrived at and left from Mactan airport. Last year, Mactan airport served some 7.78 million passengers. Del Mar’s bill quoted an estimate that said one runway can suffice for some 15 million passengers a year.

Based on these numbers alone, the need for a second runway might not seem that urgent. But we agree with Congressman del Mar’s call to act now, because we all know how long government processes like the required bidding can drag on and because Cebu can’t afford to miss out on the opportunities offered by a rising demand for air travel.

As early as eight years ago, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) already pointed out the need for secondary airports to absorb the growth in air traffic, especially in Asia and the Pacific. “Financing airport infrastructure is the fundamental challenge of the future,” the United Nations agency pointed out.

A second runway in Mactan will make room for additional flights, which, in turn, will create fresh opportunities for tourism and the rest of the regional economy. The trick, IATA has pointed out, will be to avoid two issues often seen in governments’ handling of aviation infrastructure: “not building anything and building without regard for user requirements.”

For nearly two years now, the private consortium GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. led nearly all of the improvements we’ve seen in Mactan airport: a more efficient, passenger-friendly terminal, as well as the entry of new flights. It’s time for the government, which kept the responsibility for runways and the aviation side, to ramp up efforts for a second runway, before the rising demand for air travel overtakes the airport’s capacity.