NAIA or Clark as main gateway? Cebu Pacific CEO weighs in

by Cathy Rose A. Garcia,

Posted at Feb 21 2013 11:57 AM | Updated as of Feb 22 2013 05:45 PM

MANILA, Philippines - As the government drags its feet over whether Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) or Clark International Airport in Pampanga should be the country's main gateway, Cebu Pacific chief executive officer and president Lance Gokongwei says it might be better for Manila to have two main airports.

"I don't think it's a 'choose one or the other' decision... Manila is one of the biggest cities in the world. We can handle two, if not three airports, easily. We can have Clark, Manila, and another airport if it can be built," Gokongwei said on ANC's Inside Business with Coco Alcuaz, Wednesday evening. 

He noted there are several big cities, like Bangkok, Tokyo and New York, that have more than one main airport. For instance, Tokyo has Narita and Haneda airports. New York has LaGuardia and JFK airports in Queens, and Newark airport in New Jersey. 

However, the Cebu Pacific CEO noted that for Clark to become a main gateway it would need a rapid rail system to connect it to Manila. 

"Clark is viable but to be the main gateway to Manila, it requires a rapid rail system. Clark is about 100 kilometers away from the center of Manila... I know of no other capital airport that is 100 km away from the city center and its not even connected by rail. If you don't have certainty of business and time, you won't get business people to go to that airport," Gokongwei said. 

As for the always congested NAIA, Gokongwei said the carriers are currently working with the airport authorities to solve its problems. 

"There's no one magic bullet, like  moving general aviation out, would suddenly solve our problems... There are 10 to 15 discrete moves the government is doing like the additional rapid exit taxiways," he said. 

But because of congestion at NAIA, Gokongwei said hitting the government's goal of 10 million tourist arrivals by the end of President Aquino's term in 2016 will be a "challenge."

"It's a challenging target but it involves the work of everybody...And improving infra not just in Manila but in provinces," he said.