Airport Plan

MANILA, Philippines - I am still interested to read and know more about new infrastructures either proposed, in the five-year plan or already under construction. This interest could be because of my previous positions in government not only as administrator of the SSS, provincial governor, and my rather short tenure as secretary of the then Department of Public Works which included Highways, Transportation and Communication, and the National Irrigation Administration. If memory serves, almost every infrastructure, even the Metropolitan Water District.

I would like to review some of the previous structures like the old Bacolod Airport... The runway was too short for comfort. So too with the Dumaguete Airport. I was told by my pilot friends in PAL that one airport that they used to test a pilot's skills was Bacolod because the runway was too short. Likewise, the Dumaguete Airport was a test area. It has a mountain at one end of the runway and strong cross winds during the monsoon season. In fact, you can land in Dumaguete flying over the mountains. However, for take-offs the plane must always fly towards the Tanon Strait.

Now for the subject at hand. PAL President Ramon Ang disclosed early this week San Miguel Congolomerate's intention of building what could be the largest airport of the Philippines. From the sketchy reports of the media interview with Ang, he revealed that the airport would be for the exclusive use of PAL and sister company PAL Express.

Although Ang did not reveal where the airport would be built near Manila, he gave the following data... that at least 2,000 hectares would be needed for the airport. Initially two parallel runways would be built with the option of having two more. Parallel runways mean that two planes can take off and land at the same time. In the present Ninoy Aquino Airport, there can only be one aircraft taking off and landing. In fact during the many times that I traveled to Cebu, while the loading for departure was on time, the plane had to stand by near the terminal until the pilot was told that he could move on to the take-off station. Usually the waiting time was about ten to twenty minutes. On return flights from Cebu my experience confirms that about the same time is required in a holding pattern of planes somewhere in Batangas before they are allowed to land.

The PAL president further said that the government's plans to turn Clark into the country's main airport might be ill-advised, given the distance from Manila. "If you want to fly from Clark, how long will it take you to get to the airport? Two hours if you are coming from Makati. Then you have to wait two more hours for your flight." Ang further said any plans to build a new high-speed railway between Metro Manila and Clark would cost about $10 billion which would become a heavy burden on the government. I agree with this observation of Mr. Ang, considering the huge debts in trillions of pesos that our government has to service. If approved by President Aquino, PAL could finish the project in three years, according to Ang.

Let me speculate about the location of the proposed airport. I doubt if it will be built in Bulacan with all its floods. So, will it be somewhere in Batangas? Cavite? Will it be on reclaimed land in Manila Bay? I remember there was a proposal to reclaim part of Laguna de Bay to build an airport. I don't believe that there should be one there.

I welcome the new idea of an airport nearer to Manila. So there should be a brief, thorough, and open discussion of its feasibility. After that a decision should be made. rene.g.espina@gmail.com

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