Thursday, June 24, 2021

Foreign biz group supports Clark airport development

CLARK FREEPORT -- The Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) of the Philippines has expressed support to the development of Clark International Airport (CRK) as a viable alternative to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila.

In a meeting organized by the American Chamber of Commerce (Amcham) on Tuesday, Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) head Alexander Cauguiran presented to the JFC 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 Arangkada Philippines Project, to increase investment and employment in the Philippines.

During the meeting, Amcham Executive Director Ebb Hinchliffe has expressed apprehension over NAIA. “The geography of (Metro) Manila just doesn’t support (NAIA) where it is, and is not long-term viable.”

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.

Benjamin Solis, Chief Executive Officer of South East Asian International (SEAIR), said that will solve the congestion in Metro Manila. “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.”

NAIA grows at an average of two million passengers a year for the last seven years, according to Solis.

Cauguiran said CIAC immediately went to work following President Duterte’s statement in his first SONA in 2016 that Clark airport can be utilized to transfer 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. “Clark’s domestic and international flights increased in only the first quarter of this year.”

Clark airport served 950,732 passengers in 2016. CIAC is projecting to service approximately 1.5 Million passengers by end of 2017.

CRK at present has 138 weekly international flights and 94 weekly domestic flights.

Cauguiran said these flights will increase 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 on-going for international carriers to start operations at Clark airport by mid-2017, he added.

Jaime Faustino, program director of The Asia Foundation, said “Clark will become cemented as the logical choice. Hopefully we’ll get over the point where there’s a terminal and there will be momentum.”

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.

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