MANILASenator Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III reiterated his two-year call to "go full blast" with the development of other air transport hubs such as the Clark International Airport after a recent landing mishap of an international carrier at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) that resulted in to delays and cancellations of local and foreign flights.
"We can't dillydally anymore. I made the same call in 2016. Let's not wait for another airplane incident which hassled thousands of passengers to realize there should be an urgent and comprehensive government plan to decongest the NAIA," Pimentel said in a news release issued Monday.
A Xiamen Airlines passenger plane slid off a NAIA runway during a heavy downpour late Thursday night, August 16. All 157 passengers and eight flight crew were safely removed from the aircraft.
The incident, however, led to flight delays and cancellations for two consecutive days because airport authorities needed to remove the stalled aircraft from the runway.
"We require two airports as our main international gateways. NAIA can serve South Metro Manila and Southern Luzon to Bicol, and Clark can address the needs of passengers from North Metro Manila and Northern Philippines. Both hubs may share handling of travel and logistics flow to the Visayas and Mindanao," Pimentel noted.
The underutilized airport in the former US military base at Clark in Pampanga has an area of 2,367 hectares, compared to NAIA's 700 hectares.
With its single runway, flight delays averaging to 45 minutes are a daily occurrence at the NAIA, aside from monstrous traffic jams to and from the airport.
Pimentel said Clark could eventually service "flight transfers of international passengers, such as our OFWs, who need to go home to their families in the Visayas and Mindanao."
"If you're going to the province anyway via a connecting flight and you don't need to stay in Manila, Clark International could be a better transfer point. Proposals such as these can work and should be tried," he added.
He said the development of Clark should be a core component of the government's Build, Build, Build program.
"An integrated transport system is needed to fully realize Clark's potential. We require a convenient, high speed rail network from Pampanga to Manila, as well as more flyovers and wider NLEX lanes. At present, P2P buses are not enough to give the speed and comfort of a world-class hub."
Pimentel pointed out that a low-cost international carrier has already chosen Clark as its center of operations. Domestic flag carrier Philippine Airlines has also committed to boost its operations in Clark as well as in Cebu and Davao.
"It's inevitable that with increased passenger traffic and stricter demands for aircraft safety, we need at least two main hubs. Japan, for example, has Narita and Haneda. We need a similar setup here," Pimentel said. (Senate PR)
Source: Philippine News Agency