High-speed rail not needed for Clark airport?

Jun A. Malig
High-speed rail not needed for Clark airport?
The chief of Peregrine Development International Incorporated says the claim about the need for high-speed rail to service Clark International Airport is 'folklore'

PAMPANGA, Philippines – Citing the realities of international and domestic air travel, a top official of an American knowledge management firm said a high-speed rail system between the Clark Freeport Zone and Metro Manila is unnecessary for the full operation of the Clark International Airport.

Dennis Wright, president and CEO of Peregrine Development International Incorporated (PDI), emailed last February 18 a copy of the article he wrote for the American Chamber of Commerce Philippines‘ monthly Journal wherein he tagged as “folklore” the claim about the need for high-speed rail to service Clark airport.

PDI is the initial developer of the $3-billion Sabah Al-Ahmad Global Gateway Logistics City at the 177-hectare area near the main gate of Clark Freeport.

Wright said the rail system – which was mentioned by 3 presidential candidates as a prerequisite to the full operation of the Clark airport – will not be beneficial to people using the airport.

“It actually benefits very few. It does not benefit one single person in the 23 million people in the Clark Catchment Basin, nor anyone in Region IV or South of Manila nor anyone in the Visayas in Mindanao,” Wright said.

The Clark Catchment Basin he was referring to includes Central Luzon, Ilocos Region, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, and CAMANAVA (Caloocan, Malabon, Navotas, Valenzuela), which have better access to Clark airport than to the usually traffic congested area of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Parañaque City.

Wright said even the “ruling class” in the Philippines, who insist on having a high-speed rail as a prerequisite to the full development and operation of the Clark airport will not benefit from the project.

“Most of these individuals have chauffeured cars and would still primarily utilize NAIA as would people south of the National Capital Region.”

The chief of PDI said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families are also unlikely to use the high-speed rail.

Dragging boxes

“It is hardly likely that a large family wanting to greet a returning OFW or send one off to work (abroad) will gather at the train station for a trip to and from the airport,” Wright said.

“Also, have you ever tried doing a bag drag and/or Balikbayan boxes from an airport terminal to a rail terminal and on and off the train car to a taxi? While it can be done, it is not easy,” Wright added.

The American businessman said rail transportation is not necessary between the Clark airport and NAIA because airlines generally do not ticket or connect routes between sister airports in the same area.

“For example, no one flies to Narita (Japan) and connects out of Haneda, or flies O’Hare (Chicago, USA) and out of Midway. So passengers, in general, rarely need or would use a rail connection between the airports,” Wright said.

He said Clark International Airport should be developed as a major airport alongside NAIA. 

Just like in most cities around the world, two or 3 major airports are needed to service locals and tourists, as the number of flights continue to increase, Wright added.

Wright cited the cases of Thailand that built a new airport some 30 kilometers away from the old airport; Japan, that built and operated Narita airport, some 60 kilometers away from the older Haneda airport; and Malaysia, that built a new airport some 45 kilometers from downtown Kuala Lumpur. 

During her visit here early this month, presidential aspirant Senator Grace Poe said she supports the full utilization of Clark International Airport, but added that a rail system connecting Clark to Metro Manila and the Ilocos, Cordillera and Cagayan regions is also needed to realize this.

Liberal Party standard-bearer Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, who visited Pampanga last December, said Clark International Airport should be the country’s main international airport, but this cannot be done without support infrastructure, particularly a rapid rail system to bring passengers to Metro Manila.

Another presidential aspirant, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, said last December that one way of easing the traffic problem in Metro Manila is the use of Clark International Airport as alternative to NAIA and the building of a Clark-Metro Manila fast train system for passengers. – Rappler.com

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