From the ignominy of having the world’s worst airports, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) had turned around the aviation sector to one having facilities restoring the nation’s pride and confidence.
“Remember, once we were rated as having the world’s worst airport. Just recently, however, what has been coming out in the news? Nine airports have one-star rankings. Clark was given two stars where five stars is the highest. This is a global survey where an extensive review is held,” Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said.
During the recent “Straight Talk with Daily Tribune,” Tugade invited the public to visit airports to see the huge changes in them.
“While there are lapses or breaches, the changes are very evident. The changes encompass cleanliness, efficiency and security. You will notice that the scanners are all working. These are all in the improving stages and as you improve, you try to achieve the optimal excellence.
So, these are all ongoing,” he said.
Nine Philippine airports recently received star ratings from the Official Aviation Guide (OAG), an air travel intelligence company based in the United Kingdom.
Clark is the only airport in the country to be given this two-star rating by the OAG.
The 2017-2018 OAG On-Time Performance (OTP) star ratings on local airlines and airports started in 2017.
This year, eight local airports received a one-star rating; these are the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the provincial airports in Iloilo, Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro City, Davao, Tacloban and Puerto Princesa. Clark International Airport, on the other hand, received two-star rating.
The OTP rating considers a minimum of 600 operations a month or a minimum of 2.5 million departed seats. OAG must receive flight status information for no less than 80 percent of scheduled flights within a 12-month period.
Tugade said since the survey covered 4,000 airports around the globe, to receive a star rating reflects huge changes.
Clark is the only airport in the country to be given this two-star rating by the OAG and the first ever star rating it received.
Improved traffic control
“The number of airport radar when I took over was only three. We added 10 in the last two years,” he said.
More than a year ago, President Rodrigo Duterte inaugurated the new Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) systems that upgraded airport capabilities to be at par with the country’s Asian neighbors.
“This is the answer to the call for much needed infrastructure to upgrade the country’s inadequate and aging navigation system which lagged behind those neighbors in the region,” the President said.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) financed the CNS/ATM Systems project that will enhance safety, reliability and efficiency of air traffic.
Tugade said the country now has from 19 to 20 night-rated airports from 11 in the past. “What night-rated means is that even during sunset, the airport can accommodate aircraft in contrast to the past when the time of the day that dictates whether the airport is operational or not,” he said.
He added some of the airports have “physical restrictions… to allow their use at night, but in the 44 airports, around 37 to 39 will be night-rated before the President steps down in 2022.
Tugade also took pride in the opening of the Bohol-Panglao International Airport (BPIA) that is expected to address the growing problem of air traffic congestion and is expected to spur economic activities in Central Visayas.
BPIA is the country’s first eco-airport designed for both domestic and foreign tourists who want to experience the beauty of Panglao’s pristine beaches and the Chocolate Hills in Carmen, Bohol.
The DoTr chief said the new airport is called the “green gateway to the world” since the new airport uses solar panels that provide 30 percent of the airport’s electricity needs and has a sewage treatment plant that filters wastewater for reuse or for sending to the seas.
The BPIA is a project of the national government with the support of JICA and was built to international standards.
The BPIA has a total project cost of P8.914 billion and was designed to accommodate two million passengers a year, a far cry from the old airport in Tagbilaran which could only serve 800,000 passengers per year.
Tugade said the BPIA is capable of accommodating four large jets, such as the Boeing 777 or Airbus A330 or seven small jets, like the Airbus A321 or A200, at its parking apron.
The airport design was inspired by Bohol’s top natural tourist attraction, the Chocolate Hills, he said.
12M tourists seen
He admitted he wanted the process for the approval of the proposed alternative international airport in Bulacan, as proposed by San Miguel Corp. (SMC), to move swiftly, since “I’m a man in a hurry.”
“I don’t want long processes and when I put challenges to myself, these should not be easy to achieve. I put challenges that are difficult, especially when time is not on my side,” Tugade said.
“Having said that, my expectation is that before the end of the first quarter, the project will undergo a Swiss challenge. So, the question of many is, ‘It is already February. Will you still hit the target?’”
“But I tell them, yes, I still want that target. For me, that is a huge challenge, but that is within the reasonability of expectation. What may be reasonable to you may not be reasonable to others. Some people will look at reasonability of expectation; I look at the difficulty of expectation. For me the greater the conflict, the more glorious is the triumph,” he added.
The proposed P700-billion Bulacan airport is expected to provide the capacity needed in the expected surge of tourists to 12 million a year.
Transportation Undersecretary Ruben Reinoso said approving the proposed Bulacan airport is crucial as the project is seen as one of the possible alternatives to NAIA to decongest the country’s main gateway.
He said the approval is expected to be issued by the end of the year. Construction may begin as early as 2019 and is expected to be completed by the year 2024, its proponent, SMC, announced recently.
The proposed international airport involves the construction of a terminal, parallel runways and an airport toll road.
The whole project will cover around 2,500 hectares of which 1,168 hectares will be the main airport complex, while the remaining 1,332 hectares will be developed into a township.
The Bulacan international airport will have an initial annual capacity of 100 million passengers — over triple than that of the NAIA.