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Investors criticize gov't indecision on Clark airport

Posted at | Updated as of 02/21/13 3:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The government is being urged to make a final decision on whether Clark International Airport should serve as the country's alternate gateway.

Jeff Pradhan, former president of Clark Investors and Locators Association (CILA), said many businesses inside the Clark Freeport and special economic zone are being affected by the government's indecision on the fate of the international airport.

Clark International Airport has been proposed as an alternative to the congested and old Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

"It comes down to lost opportunities. They want to see further improvement by the government rather than constant changing of minds," Pradhan added.

Several international companies have already made significant investments in Clark.

In 2008, Singapore Airlines' SIA Engineering Co. has teamed up with Gokongwei-led Cebu Air Inc. to put up a hangar and a maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facility. In 2010, it spent P1 billion to build a second hangar.

Hong Kong-based Metrojet Engineering Clark has also built a $40 million MRO facility for corporate jets.

Clark International Airport Corp. adviser Capt. Benjamin Solis urged the government to act quickly on the development of Clark international airport. He noted that NAIA is already exceeding the capacity of its terminals and runway by 40%.

"They have not made up their minds and that is the problem," Solis said.

Solis said that developing Clark as an alternative to NAIA would be cheaper than building a new airport.

"Distance is irrelevant, it is a flexible item. In other countries, all airports are far from the city. NAIA is an old airport in a large city with no other gateway and yet Clark is still not a viable option," he said.

The government is also urged to adopt a twin airport system where Clark and NAIA are both main gateways. Airlines operating Clark expect to service six million passengers. In 2012, Clark serviced 1.3 million passengers.

Solis said CIAC is ready to present a proposed P6 billion terminal project in Clark to the National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA). The terminal is expected to serve 15 million passengers a year.

But the proposed project would still have to be presented to the NEDA - Investment Coordination Committee in March before it would be sent to the NEDA board chaired by President Aquino for approval.

Solis said the project could be part of the Aquino administration’s public-private partnership (PPP) program since several companies have exrpessed interest.

He noted the second phase of the existing passenger terminal, estimated to cost P400 million, would boost the capacity to between 4 to 5 million.