IT SHOULD be one of the priorities now.

The government must really consider making the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) inside Clark as the country’s premier gateway.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

Recent developments (read: bad news) at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Mega Manila is not helping the country paint a savory picture at all. On the contrary, the inability of passenger and cargo aircraft to land at NAIA due to lack or insufficiency of Instrument Landing Systems that would guide pilots through poor visibility projects how primitive the country had gone.

The call for the government to make DMIA as the country’s main airport is being raised once again by industry and aviation experts, politicians, socio-economic and business analysts and media.

In its editorial article last July 10, 2010, the Philippine Daily Inquirer stated that “although it may look a bit ironic, the logical alternative to NAIA is DMIA. The old Clark Air Base already has a precision-approach runway and emergency services that have passed the safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization, and modern navigational aids and lighting system. It has more than enough space for another runway. All it needs is a terminal that can handle the volume of passengers now going through the Naia as well as the expected increase in the coming years.”

It furthered: ”There is an executive order, signed by President Fidel Ramos in 1994, designating Clark as the primary international gateway to the country (I believe that this refers to E.O. 104 issued in April 1994, my emphasis) and directing the Bases Conversion Development Authority to come up with a master plan for a modern airport. In 2008, President Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the Department of Transportation and Communication to convert the DMIA into the country’s premier airport. Nothing came of those orders except the opening of the DMIA as an alternate international airport.”

“The recent flight diversions should prod the Aquino administration to finally put those plans into action. If financing is the problem, the private sector is willing to put up the money. Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and San Miguel Corp. have confirmed their plan to join hands in building a modern passenger terminal at the DMIA at a cost of P7 billion. The plan also includes the construction of an 80-kilometer high-speed railway that will connect the airport to Metro Manila. The government should now invite these two prospective partners to discuss their proposal and determine how it can help them see this urgent project through.”

What the PDI article is advocating is the same effort that Chichos Luciano, president of Clark International Airport, has been pushing under the new dispensation. And it looks like it is beginning to pay-off.

Ironically and co-incidentally on the same day the PDI editorial article was published, Sun.Star Pampanga had had a news article about DMIA vis-à-vis what DOTC would now be pursuing as matter of national agenda.

It quoted Luciano as saying that that the new leaderships of the DOTC and Department of Tourism (DOT) have seen the need to fully develop the DMIA.

The report went on to say that according to Luciano, newly installed DOTC Secretary Jose De Jesus supports the effort of Clark and local officials pushing for the full operation of Clark as the country's premier gateway.

Luciano also cited the support of new DOT Secretary Alberto Lim to the development of DMIA saying the latter has always been an advocate of Clark.

He said that De Jesus has been getting more information about the situation of the NAIA following issued like congestion and the recent diversion of flights to the DMIA.

Luciano said that the new administration is looking at a bigger picture that the Philippines needs to develop its aviation industry considering its strategic location in Asia.

The Philippines has a jewel of an aviation complex (2,500 hectares at that) in DMIA. There are already big-time investors (who should not want MVP or Metro Pacific and even San Miguel Corporation for a partner in development) that are joining forces.

It is high time that the government – the Aquino Administration – to push for DMIA. Not for Clark’s sake, but for the Philippines’.