Taking off: New routes for Clark Airport

PHILIPPINES Airlines (PAL) has responded to President Duterte’s call to ease congestion in Manila by announcing new routes from Clark International Airport (CRK).

From December 16, the national carrier will make daily flights to Caticlan and Cebu, four a week to Davao and Busuanga, and three to Cagayan de Oro. Then, on January 1, daily flights to Incheon, Seoul, will begin to serve the area’s large Korean community.

The announcement by Alexander Cauguiran, president and CEO of the airport corporation, follows the president’s plea to take the pressure off Manila’s NAIA airport. Originally designed to serve 13 million passengers yearly, by 2015 it was handling more than 36 million.

Crowds of passengers wait in line at Terminal 3 of Manila's NAIA
Crowds of passengers wait in line at Terminal 3 of Manila’s NAIA

Speaking at a ‘Clark Development Projects Stakeholders Roadshow’, Mr Cauguiran said: “This is a welcome development that augurs well to the achievement of overall socio-economic objectives of the Duterte administration that include the development and full utilisation of Clark International Airport.”

“If half of the eight to 10 million passengers in Central and northern Luzon travel to Metro Manila and fly via Clark, that would be less than four million vehicles in the national capital.”

Cebu Pacific has also announced an increased number of services at CRK, including up to 10 flights per week to Hong Kong and six to Cebu.

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

For example, in August this year plans to reroute services between Tacloban to Manila were vetoed following opposition from and business and tourism leaders.

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, the first step towards creating an eight-million capacity terminal. However, the masterplan for the airport, scheduled for completion by 2025, would see it become one of the world’s largest, with an annual of 80 million.