Manila Bulletin

Clark growing as traffic jams plague NAIA


WHILE officials argue about how to boost the capacity of the Ninoy Aquino Internatio­nal Airport (NAIA) or whether to move it to Sangley Point in Cavite, more and more passengers are turning to Clark in Pampanga.

For years, the distance to Pampanga was a big negative factor for a transfer to Clark. It was proposed that a high-speed train be built, so that arriving passengers from abroad can quickly reach Metro Manila, as in certain other cities of the world today, notably Hong Kong, Tokyo, and London.

But, with the unending traffic jam in Metro Manila, it now takes about three hours to reach NAIA from most parts of Metro Manila. It takes only an hour from Manila to Clark. Thus, Clark Internatio­nal Airport Corp. President Alexander Cauguiran said, about 1.8 million passengers a year now fly out of Clark. They are served by Emirates of Dubai, Qatar of Doha, Dragonair of Hong Kong, Tiger Air of Singapore, Jim Air of Korea, Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines of the Philippine­s. Many of the departing passengers are Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) from Visayas and Mindanao, he said.

The limitation­s of NAIA have long been noted by government officials. There was talk of building another runway, but there is no longer enough space for one as the surroundin­g area is now filled with housing subdivisio­ns. The latest proposal by congressme­n seeks to decongest NAIA by moving general aviation (private planes) and small commercial aircraft to Sangley Point.

NAIA has only 6.7 hectares of land, with three internatio­nal terminals accommodat­ing 28 million passengers a year. In contrast, Clark has some 4,000 hectares that used to be the base of the US 13th Air Force, with two giant runways capable of accommodat­ing the US Space Shuttle in case of an emergency. The area around Clark is fast being developed by major Philippine enterprise­s, in expectatio­n that this will soon be a major economic center in the country.

Clark airport is growing on its own, without the benefit of a government decision making it the prime internatio­nal gateway to Manila. It has limitless room for expansion. The traffic problem in Metro Manila is moving travelers to fly out of Clark, including OFWs, 6,000 of whom depart Clark daily. As more passengers see how much more practical it is to use Clark, it is bound to grow on its own and eclipse other airports in the counry, includng NAIA

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