The chairman of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations/Airlines Operators Council (Asean/Aoc) has proposed to transfer all low-cost carrier (LCC) operations, including General Aviation (GenAv), to Sangley Point, Cavite,
to drastically reduce congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) in Metro Manila.
“Traffic congestion at Naia would be reduced by 15 to 40 percent if all LCC operations are transferred to Sangley Point,” Onnie Nakpil, Asean/Aoc chairman, said.
He did not say how long the transfer would take because it is the job for the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) or the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to do so.
At present, Naia is experiencing congestion and could only afford a 27-runway occupancy, the technical term for combined takeoffs and landings per hour.
The ideal should be about 40 aircraft to 60 aircraft per hour, or about one aircraft per minute.
As a temporary remedy, the Philippines, with the cooperation of the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) and Civil Aeronautics Board (Cab) has allowed a Sydney-based company to dictate slotting of schedules of all domestic aircraft at Naia.
Despite this, however, congestion remains a problem because the evidently main disadvantage of Naia is that it has only one international runway and a shorter domestic runway.
All the world’s major airports have a minimum of two parallel runways, allowing for simultaneous landings and takeoffs, according to Caap chief Ramon Gutierrez.
Some of Asia’s best airports found in Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok are building a third runway.
At present, Naia’s combined air traffic is about 900-runway occupancy a day.
A reduction of 15 percent would leave 764 aircraft at Naia and, at 40 percent, there would be a daily traffic of 540 airplanes, according to Nakpil, who used to be the chairman of AOC and chief security officer of Gulf Air. At these numbers, Naia would be at peak efficiency and there would be no congestion to be brought about by the rest of the operators.
Nakpil said this solution should be acceptable to the low-cost carriers compared to DOTC Secretary Manuel Roxas II’s proposal to reduce the number of LCC flights to solve the current congestion.
Roxas’s proposal was met with disbelief and negative reactions from heads of the LCCs. They asked why the government had urged the airline companies to expand and buy new aircraft a few years ago, only to limit their operations when tourists and the public have come to accept air travel as a cheap and efficient way to see places.
Sangley Point is currently the home of the 15th Strike Wing of the Philippine Air Force. It is connected to Manila by a modern highway, the Cavite Expressway.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Red Cross chairman and CEO, former Sen. Richard Gordon, has urged the DOTC to accelerate efforts to decongest and upgrade the country’s airports to facilitate the movement of people and goods. “The decongestion of our airports is urgently necessary particularly for the Red Cross, which has to respond immediately to disasters and other emergencies even in far-flung areas,” Gordon said.
He asked Roxas and his team to take a direct hand in solving the problem of airport congestion as this “affects not just operations of the Red Cross and other humanitarian groups but the whole economy as well.”
Gordon said their rescue and relief efforts couldn’t wait nor be delayed because “lives are at stake.”
He added that the country is vulnerable to both natural and man-made disasters, such as typhoons that cause flooding and landslides that exact a heavy toll on lives and property and lead to displacement of many people from their homes.
In view of this, Gordon said, “the government should ensure that rescue and relief operations by the government and humanitarian organizations such as the Red Cross can proceed unhampered.”
“Time is of the essence when disaster strikes. We cannot waste our time waiting for flights that are delayed or even canceled due to airport congestion or breakdowns in airport equipment and facilities,” he added.