Jul 052014

He better be kidding.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya could not be serious when he announced that his department has chosen Sangley Point in Cavite City to host the new international airport and replace the existing one.

We know that Abaya used to be congressman of the district that includes Cavite City. It’s too obvious that politics played in a huge role in choosing the site for the new airport.

According to Abaya, the DOTC will adopt the recommendation of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to build Manila’s next international gateway in Cavite.

The JICA guys must be up on their feet when they saw the announcement. After all, they did not recommend Sangley.

According to JICA sources, the agency is actually more inclined to support whatever moves the San Miguel Corporation group will make as far as building a new airport is concerned.

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When it chose Sangley, DOTC in effect rejected a proposal from SMC to build a $10-billion airport on reclaimed land at Manila Bay.

Abaya said that DOTC’s planning department requested SMC for a full and proper presentation of their proposal but their two requests were either turned down or ignored.

Earlier, businessman Ramon Ang personally presented SMC’s plan to construct a modern airport along Manila Bay in a meeting with President Aquino last May. SMC’s proposed four-runway hub was designed to either complement or replace the aging Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Ang’s intention in presenting SMC’s plan is probably for Malacañang and DOTC to study the idea, prepare the terms of reference, then possibly bid out the project. On the other hand, what DOTC seems to want is for SMC to prepare all the dirty work and submit the entire proposal to make it appear like it is an unsolicited proposal.

Who knows, there might have been no formal request from DOTC for SMC to submit a detailed proposal in the first place.

Abaya said that the JICA site-selection study for the new airport in Manila had also considered Manila Bay but Sangley Point emerged as the best choice among seven locations.

Is there really such a study? If there is, where is it?

Although JICA is already working on the feasibility study of constructing a new airport in Sangley Point, Abaya clarified that the project is still subject to the approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, which is chaired by the President.

DOTC is studying the appropriate funding structure for the project considering the huge cost of building a new international airport, which will be funded either through the General Appropriations Act (GAA), Official Development Assistance (ODA), or Public-Private Partnership (PPP).

On the other hand, if SMC builds the airport, it will be at no cost to government.

The SMC airport will cost $10 billion and the same cost is estimated for the airport to be constructed in Sangley Point.

Why the Sangley project will cost as much, when the Manila Bay project even involves reclaiming land, makes the DOTC choice all the more highly suspect.

Did DOTC’s costing include other incidental costs, like constructing a new expressway or a rail system leading to Cavite City.

The DOTC has also set aside an interim solution proposed by SMC to build a runway parallel to the existing airport.

SMC, through affiliate Philippine Airlines, has proposed the construction of a third runway to be situated parallel to the main runway at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). The proposal aims to expand capacity at Manila International Airport (NAIA).

With increased capacity, it is expected that building the third runway will result in a reduction of delays to departing and arriving aircraft.  It will also help to reduce ramp congestion and lead to optimum airport efficiency.

The proposed additional runway will measure 2,100 meters in length by 60 meters wide, and at an approximate distance of 200 meters from the edge of the existing runway.

A number of well-known airports in the USA operate with closely spaced parallel runways, including San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Newark.

PAL is proposing that the NAIA be equipped with a new Ground Based Augmentation System (GBAS).  This system will allow instrument approaches to all runways at Manila to approved Category 1 conditions further enhancing safety and gaining more efficient operations.

But again, Abaya has chosen to ignore the proposal, saying it is not doable.

And the Sangley project is? C’mon.

The traffic going to and from Cavite City is horrendous. One has to pass through a number of busy municipalities to get there. And unless a mass transit system is built to accommodate the volume of passengers that will utilize the new airport, then expect a nightmare.

Personally, I am pissed off with the delays in take off and landing due to air traffic. Why? Because it is something that can be resolved, assuming of course that our government is really serious on looking for an immediate and cost-effective solution.

But the air traffic has more far-reaching effects.

For one airline alone, total cost per month as a result of these excessive air and ground traffic is estimated at $2 million. This would include flight disruption costs (hotel accommodation for delayed or canceled flights, meals, etc.)

Total carbon emission for one airline was computed at 2,900 kilograms or 2.9 tons for a single month as a result of these flight delays.

Abaya and this government do not seem to care.

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