ON DIFFERENT occasions over the past few months, poor runway visibility due to heavy smog, bad weather and a glitch in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Very High Frequency Omni-Directional Radio Range or VOR diverted more than fifty flights bound for Manila down to Clark’s Diosdado Macapagal International Airport or DMIA. The VOR helps pilots land during bad weather.

For some, these flight diversions coupled with other inconveniences is reason enough to make the DMIA the premier international airport in the country instead of serving as alternate airport to NAIA.

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This possibility has the local business club-- Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Pamcham), abuzz with anticipation of a business and investment boom for the province when this happens. An event that will make an impact on the whole region as well.

Mr. Alex Cauguiran, Executive Vice-President and COO of Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC), the company that runs DMIA and Mr. Rene Romero, Chair of Advocacy for Development of Central Luzon recently guested in So to Speak, to clarify the issue at hand.

Yes, it is bad business sense to leave a bad impression on a customer but it seems that NAIA has been slow to improve and expand its facilities to grab a fair share of the air traffic passing through the Asia-Pacific.

DMIA has the latest aviation equipment and facilities that NAIA lacks. It offers a respite from the congested arteries of Metro Manila that has been plaguing frequent flyers, be they Filipino or foreigner. It’s an hour and a half away from frequent city destinations in Asia.

Even its elevated location inside Clark Economic Zone makes flooding, like what Ondoy did to Manila, a remote possibility.

Yet is the DMIA ready for almost twenty-five million passengers, both international and domestic passing through NAIA?

Apparently, not just yet with the DMIA’s present capacity able to accommodate two to three million only. The delays and inconveniences experienced by passengers who were unfortunately diverted to DMIA is a gauge that there is much still to be done.

Moreover, despite a shuttle service currently provided for passengers to the DMIA, accessibility remains an issue for many airline companies reluctant to make the switch from NAIA to DMIA.

It’s no surprise that plans are underway to transform the DMIA to an 80 million-passenger facility, bigger than the Hong Kong or Thailand Airport. Still, CIAC needs to speed up DMIA’s expansion if it wants to take a slice of the growing air traffic passing through the Asia-Pacific that is said to reach 51.1 percent of the world’s total by 2010, according to estimates made by the International Air Transportation Association (IATA).

A key factor to sustain such a transition would be if we are able to stimulate local economies beyond commerce and trade. Too often, the ‘hubs’ or ‘centers’ such as economic zones we develop end up as isolated enclaves in the midst of under development.

In the meantime, maybe the new administration can give the old NAIA some TLC to lift its image as the country’s gateway to the world, in spite the controversy-riddled NAIA Terminal 3. And perhaps, take a serious look at the alternative of declaring and priming up the DMIA as the next premier gateway to the world during the term of P-NOY.

Now if that happens, that is not only good for business but good for the public as well.