Poe pushes for NAIA expansion as solution to congestion

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Grace Poe said on Thursday, March 1, that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) must be expanded to address the congestion there.

Poe said the congestion would be better solved through expansion rather than the rationalization of terminals that the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) plans to implement.

"Kahit saang terminal ilipat diyan ay puno na ang terminal, puno pa rin at magiging siksikan pa rin. Ang talagang solusyon diyan ay hindi paglilipat ng terminal ng mga ibang airline kundi pag-e-expand ng NAIA," the senator said after a Senate hearing on airport congestion.

(Even if we move [airlines] to different terminals, the airport will still be congested. The real solution is not the transfer of certain airlines to other terminals but the expansion of NAIA.)

The problem: In 2017, 42 million passengers used NAIA, a 6.3% increase in passenger volume from 2016's record of 39.5 million.

NAIA only has two runways handling 730 aircraft movements per day.

In previous years, NAIA had been tagged as one of the "worst airports" in the world, but inter-agency cooperation and stricter flight schedule policies helped the airport get rid of the label in 2017.

Despite the improvement, congestion is still a problem.

The proposals: On Thursday, Megawide Construction Corporation and its Bangalore-based partner GMR Infrastructure Limited submitted a $3-billion (P155.97-billion), 18-year unsolicited proposal to rehabilitate, develop, operate, and maintain NAIA.

GMR-Megawide's proposal includes plans to expand existing terminals, so that these would eventually be able to handle a total of 72 million passengers annually.

Last February 12, the NAIA Consortium – comprised of 7 of the country's top conglomerates – also submitted a P350-billion proposal to rehabilitate, expand, operate, and maintain the airport.

The NAIA Consortium includes Aboitiz InfraCapital Incorporated, AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation, Alliance Global Group Incorporated, Asia's Emerging Dragon Corporation, Filinvest Development Corporation, JG Summit Holdings Incorporated, and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation.

Meanwhile, the MIAA plans to rationalize operations, with NAIA Terminals 1 and 3 to be used solely for international flights, and Terminals 2 and 4 for domestic flights.

The MIAA is also eyeing the redistribution of some domestic flights within NAIA and the Clark International Airport which is some 100 kilometers north of Manila.

The 'real' solution: Poe said the government should consider the unsolicited proposals from the private sector.

For the senator, distributing operations would only be a "band-aid solution" and would not address the problem of congestion entirely.

She also said moving flights to Clark can only be considered once the administration's Build, Build, Build infrastructure program delivers its promise of interconnectivity. – Rappler.com

Aika Rey

Aika Rey covers the Philippine Senate for Rappler. Before writing about politicians, she covered budget, labor, and transportation issues.