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Thank heavens: Ambitious plan for “multi-airport system” to serve Manila

Plans have been announced for a huge expansion of the nation’s airport capacity to help unclog Manila’s NAIA airport.

Transport Undersecretary Roberto Lim has outlined a vision for a “multi-airport system” to include a greatly expanded Clark airport — capable of handling 80 million passengers per year — a 2,500-hectare airport in Bulacan, to the north of Manila, and possibly a third airport and seaport at a former US naval base in Cavite province.

(For more on the expansion of Clark Airport, see here and here.)

The Department of Transportation is evaluating a proposal by the San Miguel Corporation to build a 699-billion peso ($14 billion) airport city complex in Bulacan, Mr Lim confirmed.

Manila’s NAIA airport handled 36.7 million passengers in 2015 — far exceeding the 13 million capacity it was designed to serve. This congestion has led the hub to feature strongly in league tables shaming the world’s worst airports.

As well as the congestion within the terminals, transport links to get to the NAIA in the first place leave a lot to be desired.

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr has said that he intends to more than double tourist arrivals in the Philippines from 5.9 million this year to 12 million in 2022. This, of course, will involve a huge expansion in air travel infrastructure.

Clark has long been considered something of a “Cinderella airport” — often overlooked for expansion due to its distance from Metro Manila and lack of overland mass transit links.

However, the Department of Transportation has already pledged to address this by building a new railway system between Clark and the capital.

Although yet to be finalised, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade has said it would be completed before the president’s term of office ends in 2022.

It has also been announced recently that nearly three billion pesos will be spent on improving infrastructure at the airport.

Eventually, according to the “grand plan” for Clark, by 2025 it will be one of the world’s largest transport hubs, with an annual passenger capacity of 80 million.

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