Private planes, flying schools to leave NAIA by June – Aquino
This would free up the congested NAIA runway of airlines carrying very few passengers

MANILA, Philippines – To free up the congested the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) of take-offs and landings by airlines carrying very few passengers, private planes and flying schools that are operating in Manila would be transferred to Sangley Point in Cavite.

The transfer is expected to take place in June, according to President Aquino who keynoted the commemoration of the Fall of Corregidor on Sunday, May 6.

During a media interview, he said the transfer of the general aviation operations at the NAIA complex is an “”immediate [measure] to reduce congestion in NAIA.”

Small aircraft operators – including flying schools and private airlines of the country’s richest – have been operating at NAIA decades ago. They occupy a small portion of the NAIA airport complex, but their flights account for about 17% of total landings and take-offs at the airport runway.

Currently, the criss-crossed runway at the country’s main gateway is accommodating 45 landings and take-offs. If international standards are followed, there should only be 36 per hour.

Congestion at NAIA runway has resulted in delayed flights and numerous airline passenger complaints.  

The transfer general aviation to Sangley airport will take place “within a month or so,” the President said in Filipino and English.

Don’t reduce commercial flights?

Recently, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) urged airlines to reduce their flights at NAIA, citing safety and congestion issues.

The local airlines countered, however, that the government has previously urged private sector to support tourism growth targets, which to them meant corresponding increases in commercial flights. Almost all tourists that visit the Philippines, an archipelago of 7,100 islands in Southeast Asia, arrive by air.

New flights, as well as destinations, soared in the past years. However, most of these flights still operate in Manila as other airports are still wanting. The international airport at Clark in central Luzon, for example, have yet to connect to Manila through a fast train system, while the other aviation facilitates in the provinces do not have the capabilities yet to handle evening flights.

Lance Gokongwei, the CEO of Cebu Pacific Air, the biggest player in the domestic airline industry, has been vocal in asking the government to focus on general aviation operators, and not take out the congestion issue on the commercial airlines.

Cebu Pacific said its take-offs and landings have been on time only for an average of 77% in 2011 from 88% in 2010. The airline executives have said the long queues to use the runway are to blame and is beyond their control.   

For Avelino Zapanta, the president of budget airline Southeast Asian Airlines (Seair), getting the general aviation operators out of NAIA involves flexing political muscle.

“The DOTC must have the political will to transfer general aviation out of NAIA. These small aircraft with usually less than 5 passengers eat up some 17% of total takeoffs and landings. Imagine the benefit to the economy if each of those flights is replaced with 198 or more passenger-configurated aircraft. Why remove the bigger contributor to the economy?” Zapanta had said.

Sangley Point

Sangley Point — a former communication and hospital facility of the United States Navy after World War II — has long been one of the options for key commercial aviation facilities in the country, along with Clark Airbase in Pampanga.

Sangley is located on a peninsula jutting into Manila Bay, about 8 miles southwest of the capital.  

President Aquino shrugged off suggestions to develop Sangley Point as a modern airport since such would require land reclamation, thus would be costly. –

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