Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Airport and Aviation authority officials on Friday inspected the ongoing construction at the Sangley Airport in Cavite where domestic flights will be transferred as part of the government’s plan to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Workers are now in the process of finishing the asphalt overlay of the runway of the new facility, as well as the construction of the Passenger Terminal Building, the drainage system, and the hangars.
The construction of additional facilities at the Sangley Airport, which started last year and is now 48.68 percent complete, is in line with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to accelerate the decongestion of the country’s premier airport in Manila.
“Let us not see shadows when there is no sun. If we are all to answer the ‘perhaps’ and the ‘maybes,’ nothing will happen in this country. We should not stop development simply because we are afraid of future inconveniences. Bear in mind that the price of development is inconvenience,” said Tugade.
Manila International Airport Authority general manager Eddie Monreal and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines director general Jim Sydiongco accompanied Tugade during the inspection, which was conducted in coordination with Air Force and Navy officials.
Tugade said the general aviation users will be notified to fully relocate to Clark International Airport and Sangley Airport to decongest NAIA and allow for improvements and additions in the main gateway.
The transportation chief also expressed that his agency is working on a basket of solutions to decongest NAIA, through airport infrastructure developments in Clark and Sangley, and the construction of the New Manila International Airport in Bulacan.
The DOTr is also set to take concrete steps to address passenger discomfort in case of delays, including the imposition of penalties for flight delays attributed to airlines.
President Duterte earlier made a directive to transfer the domestic flights to Cavite after a Red Lightning Alert status caused several flight delays and cancellations at the NAIA last Sunday.
Monreal said the Red Lightning Alert scheme was adopted following the death of an employee who was struck by a lightning bolt on the tarmac of the Terminal 3 at the height of a thunderstorm in 2014.
Following the tragedy at the tarmac, the Weather bureau installed a Lightning Activity System (LAS), which tells them whether to raise the yellow or red alert warning.
Monreal said that the NAIA has the same policy in 2012, but was amended in 2016 due to the accident.
Meanwhile, the Cebu Pacific Air on Friday expressed its support to the government’s initiative to hasten the development of Sangley airport.
The CEB management welcomed the long-term solution converting the air force base into a new facility to complement the NAIA in Manila.
“The transfer of General Aviation—or private aircraft operations to Sangley—is a quick win and will yield immediate positive results for NAIA,” said Michael Ivan Shau, chief operations officer of Cebu Pacific. “As an initial step, we have committed to establish our turboprop cargo operations at Sangley.”
CEB is in the final phase of converting two of its ATR 72-500 passenger aircraft into full freighter planes—the only commercial passenger airline in the Philippines to have specialized aircraft to transport cargo.
The first of the two freighter aircraft is expected to enter into service before August 2019.
Turbo-prop aircraft—such as the ATR fleet operated by Cebu Pacific subsidiary Cebgo, are typically used in airports with runways less than 1.2 kilometers long—which is too short for jet aircraft. Only about one-third of the 90 airports in the Philippines can land jets.
Cebu Pacific flies to 37 domestic destinations, including routes where jet operations are not possible such as Marinduque, Batanes, Busuanga, Camiguin and Siargao.
Tugade said that the construction of additional facilities at the Sangley Airport in Cavite will meet the November deadline set by the president for its augmented operationalization.
“National interest is primordial. The Philippine Navy will decide and maintain security, as no amount of commercial interest shall be prioritized over national interest,” he said.
He also talked about the possibility of launching a Point-to-Point (P2P) bus service from Ninoy Aquino International Airport to Sangley Airport to assist passengers.
Starting Friday, Sangley Airport has been on 24/7 construction mode to meet the President’s deadline. To help accelerate the pace, Tugade ordered the hiring of additional manpower, extension of work hours, and the infusion of additional equipment.
Once additional operations are available at Sangley Airport, along with the ongoing expansion of Clark International Airport, flight and passenger congestion at the NAIA are seen to abate.
As this developed, airline companies on Thursday agreed to use the Sangley airport in Cavite province for general aviation and turboprop operations to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“It was a productive and mutually beneficial meeting. Airlines expressed their willingness and commitment to support the government’s thrust to utilize Sangley airport. This is a solid demonstration of their trust and confidence in the administration of President, Tugade said in a statement.
Tugade was joined at the meeting by Monreal, Sydiongco, Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) Executive Director Carmelo Arcilla, Michael Tan of Philippine Airlines, Lance Gokongwei of Cebu Pacific, and Capt. Dexter Comendador of AirAsia.
General aviation users will be notified within a year to relocate to the Clark International Airport in Pampanga and Sangley airport to ease congestion in the four terminals of NAIA to allow for improvements in its main gateway.
General aviation refers to all civil aviation operations with the exception of commercial air transport or aerial work which includes light aircraft, business, and private jets or helicopters.