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Quo Vadis NAIA

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Formerly known as the biggest American military airport in the Asia Pacific Region, many still believe Clark can be the country’s premier international gateway—and the hope that the Philippines will escape the onus of having the world’s worst airport in the next two years

NAIA’s poor ranking was based on its filthy toilets, bribery, and corruption—among others. Ouch.

While Singapore’s Changi International Airport, Seoul’s Incheon International Airport, and the Hong Kong International Airport were adjudged best airports by an interactive website, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) suffered another blow as the worst airport in Asia and fifth in the world for 2010.

The website ‘The Guide to Sleeping in Airports’ ranked NAIA, particularly Terminal 1, the worst in Asia based on reviews of air travelers, who complained that the airport, which hosts all international flights except those by Philippine Airlines have unfriendly staff, filthy toilets, hard seats, chaotic, super strict security, and corrupt officials.

NAIA’s ranking actually moved two places up in the world’s worst list, from ranking seventh in 2009.

And while the website acknowledged “there is hope at this airport if you go to Terminal 3 where it is clean, spacious and has Internet connection,” Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Jose Angel Honrado appealed to the public to understand that improvements at NAIA “would take time.” He said people should understand that renovating the 30-year-old terminal was not an easy thing.

As a consolation, Honrado said that in the next few years all international flights will be moved to Terminal 3. This, despite legal claims by its builder, Philippine International Air Terminals Company, against the Philippine government.

Beyond the Same Old
Amid common complaints of poor signs, long lines for baggage screening devices, multiple unnecessary document checks, incompetence, corruption, and poor facilities, lies another issue worth noticing—the takeoff and landing of planes on the runway of the NAIA complex has gone beyond safe limits.

Apparently, congestion on NAIA’s runways has led to constant flight delays as long as 80 minutes. Imagine the potential danger of planes circling the air waiting for their time to land.

Another setback is the report by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) revealing that a recently installed air traffic management system at NAIA does not meet international civil aviation standards, having at least 20 major deficiencies. Incidents of technical glitches have been reported left and right—the recent one of which was a near collision between a Philippine Airlines and Japan Airlines flight due to navigation system failure.

Best Alternative to the NAIA
With all the problems in NAIA, clamor to move to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga are fast rising. DMIA is four times bigger than the 600-hectare NAIA.

The Asean Airlines Cooperators Council predicted that the development of DMIA into a full international airport would take effect in 2012. But the number of passengers DMIA serves has taken off from a measly 7,000 in 2003 to a somewhat respectable 5.5 million last year.

Plans to upgrade current airport facilities are also underway. This includes an annex that will expand the passenger waiting area, upgrading of additional runways, two passenger boarding bridges, two luggage conveyor belts, a billion-peso facility that will handle wide body aircrafts, installation of a new state-of-the-art radar system, and an investment commitment of US$100 million for five hangars on a 10-hectare property. A Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines-accredited training school is also in the works.

During the launch of the new airport terminal last March, Clark International Airport Corporation president Victor Jose I. Luciano happily announced that a feasibility study conducted by the Japan International Cooperation Agency affirmed that Clark provides the “most beneficial” area for an alternative airport in Luzon.

The study ‘Airport Strategies for the Greater Capital Region’ found that the DMIA received a 78% rating in terms of proximity and access over five other areas including Sangley Point in Cavite, Angat and Obando in Bulacan, Talim Island in Rizal, and Taguig in Metro Manila.

The research asserted that one of the reasons concentrated traffic is being experienced at the NAIA as well as the underutilization of the DMIA was the absence of a master plan. But the twin airport system being planned by the DoTC, which will connect the DMIA and the NAIA, is a start.

Print ed: 08/11


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