Viet­nam ap­proves con­tro­ver­sial US$16 bil. air­port

The China Post - - WORLD BUSINESS -

Law­mak­ers in Viet­nam voted Thurs­day to build a con­tro­ver­sial new US$16 bil­lion air­port near Ho Chi Minh City, as the coun­try vies to be­come one of the world’s busiest avi­a­tion hubs.

The pro­ject aims to ease air­port con­ges­tion in Viet­nam’s busi­ness hub and cater to an am­bi­tious 100 mil­lion pas­sen­gers and five mil­lion tonnes of cargo a year by 2050.

“Build­ing the in­ter­na­tional Long Thanh air­port has been ap­proved by the Na­tional Assem­bly with 86 per­cent of votes in fa­vor,” the com­mu­nist state said in a post­ing on its gov­ern­ment web­site, adding the new air­port would be built around 40 kilo­me­ters (25 miles) from the city.

But the plan, first mooted decades ear­lier, has sparked vig­or­ous public de­bate in the au­thor­i­tar­ian coun­try, with many ques­tion­ing why the ex­ist­ing air­port could not be ex­panded.

The prob­lem ap­pears to be a large golf course, owned by Viet­nam’s pow­er­ful mil­i­tary, that sits right next to the ex­ist­ing Tan Son Nhat Air­port. The gov­ern­ment has ruled out ex­pand­ing onto this land.

“It is very un­rea­son­able to al­low a golf course in the air­port while it lacks park­ing lots for air­planes,” Le Trong Sanh, for­mer head of the Tan Son Nhat Air­port flight man­age­ment sec­tion and a vo­cal critic of the Long Thanh air­port plan, has told state media. He in­stead sup­ports ex­pand­ing the ex­ist­ing site.

Ac­cord­ing to the Air­ports Cor­po­ra­tion of Viet­nam, the city’s in­ter­na­tional air­port al­ready serves 20 mil­lion pas­sen­gers a year and will hit the max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of 25 mil­lion pas­sen­gers by 2017.

If all goes to plan, the pro­posed air­port in neigh­bor­ing Dong Nai province would turn Viet­nam into a re­gional avi­a­tion hub.

“The pro­ject’s fund­ing will come from the state bud­get, the avi­a­tion sec­tor, Of­fi­cial De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance, en­ter­prises and other sources,” the gov­ern­ment said in its state­ment.

In re­cent years the cur­rent air­port has suf­fered from a string of tech­ni­cal glitches in­clud­ing a power out­age in Novem­ber 2014 that left the con­trol tower with­out radar for more than an hour.

Last week an 18-minute ra­dio dis­rup­tion in air traf­fic con­trol re­sulted in six flights be­ing de­layed and one plane di­verted to another air­port.

The rea­son for the dis­rup­tion re­mains un­clear, the Civil Avi­a­tion Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Viet­nam said.

Law­mak­ers have called for the Long Thanh pro­ject, long mired in de­bates over fea­si­bil­ity and fund­ing, to avoid “waste­ful­ness and losses” and for trans­parency at all stages of the con­struc­tion.

At­lanta in the United States was the world’s busiest air­port in 2014 with more than 96 mil­lion pas­sen­gers, fol­lowed by Bei­jing in sec­ond place, Lon­don’s Heathrow in third and Haneda in Tokyo com­ing fourth, ac­cord­ing to an Air­ports Coun­cil In­ter­na­tional state­ment in March.

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