Sangil: Focus on San Fernando airport

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LET’S take a look on what’s happening in our neighborhood.

Each weekend, particularly if it’s a long weekend, many are too eager to pack their small suitcases and travel to some distant and not too distant destinations.

Us here in Pampanga, we either go to Baguio City for the cool weather at night, or go to San Juan, La Union for some thrill observing the surfers.

Those with bigger budgets they go to Osaka, Japan -- the most preferred destination because of the exciting food trip at Dotonbori. Davao, Cebu, Siargao and Palawan are top on the list of travelers. Clark is it. Never in my entire life have I witnessed traveling activity of people.

Speed is the name of the game. When fast travel come to mind, I always think of the underdeveloped San Fernando airport in La Union.

It is one regional airport methinks and suggest that in time, if upgraded can be fully utilized. Bases Conversion Development Authority President Vince Dizon, now the big boss of the government’s flagship programs, may consider this.

I was some years director-adviser of the Poro Point Management Corporation and I saw the potential of the San Fernando airport.

It is in my thought till today that people from the Visayas and Mindanao may definitely wanted to feel the cool air of Baguio, the single digit weather of Atoy, Benguet, frolic in the beaches of Pangasinan and La Union and wander at the heritage district of Ilocos Sur, marvel on the rice terraces, etc.

And people of the north may want to see the tarsiers and chocolate hills of Bohol, Have lunch with the original inasal of Bacolod City, delight on the batchoy of Iloilo, dance with the ati-atihan of Kalibo, kick the heels on the white beaches of Boracay, snorkeling in Siargao, have fun at the crocodile park in Davao City, visit the simple home of President Duterte, etc.

All of these are very possible if funds will be made available to the upgrade of San Fernando airport and include this regional airport on the “Build, Build, Build” program.

The northerners and southerners travel with ease. Not to pass through the Manila airport for southerners to go up north and ride through three expressways. And for northerners to take their airplane rides in San Fernando airport and on to their favorite destinations either in the Visayas or Mindanao.

I am not new in pushing for the upgrades of airports outside of Metro Manila. I was part of a team when upgrade of Clark airport started.

Thanks to the efforts of these people and are the one who should be credited of what is Clark International Airport now.

We rolled our sleeves together with the late Roy Navarro, Manny Angeles, Chicos Luciano, the late Levy Laus, Jess Nicdao, Al Cusi, Alex Caugiran and the rank and file to realize a dream of an international airport.

I was also involved in several air services agreements here and abroad. The coming of budget airlines which were not charged of any airside fees in the first two years of their operations as a means of come-on.

The roadshows done in several places in the country and explained the “no hassle” travel using Clark airport.

First there were tens of thousands passengers, then few hundreds of thousands, then a million and so on.

On marching orders of then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, efforts started on the drawing board for Clark Airport to be the international gateway but somehow there were delays in the negotiations with several proposals mostly coming from international and local constructors like Al Karafi, China’s Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), Singapore’s Changi and few more others.

In those years, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is consistently listed as among the worst airports in the world.

Not only because it is too crowded, dirty and poorly managed, but there was constantly very heavy air traffic that caused delay to discomfiture of airline passengers, their planes circling around the aerodrome for many minutes before they can make landing. And its present location, it can no longer expand to construct more runways, and no more space to extend its single runway.

National leadership is very much aware that due to hefty increase in the traffic load of airlines. It is a must that in international gateway to replace NAIA should be built and the most logical option is the Clark International Airport.

The Clark airport has more room for expansion. It is located in a 2,200 hectares, presently having two parallel runways with a provision of a third runway fit really for an international gateway.

There was a dramatic increase in the international passenger flights after upgrades undertaken. The departure lounge and the arrival area were spruced up to make it more convenient for passengers.

A baggage conveyor was added and dual passenger boarding bridges were installed, and resulted to more airlines using the airports. Diverted flights not able to making a safe landing at the NAIA frequently landed at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) as their safe haven.

The early airline companies making flights to DMIA are Asiana Airlines, Cebu Pacific, Dragon Air, Zest Airways, SeaAir, Jin Air and other known airlines coming in later.

Some stayed, others stopped their flights due to less passenger traffic.

If it happened to Clark Airport, it can also happen to San Fernando Airport.


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