Will Clark ever Take-off as Manila Second Intercontinental Air Gateway?

It has now been almost 15 years since former Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo officialy elevated the status of the former military air base of Clark to an international air gateway to be developed as Manila new intercontinental airport. More than a decade later, little has moved there. The Macapagal Arroyo government managed to build a new terminal designed to accommodate up to two million passengers a year.

A few low cost carriers move their operations followed by Gulf carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways. the airport welcomes also regular legacy carriers Asiana (Korea) and Cathay Dragon (Hong Kong).

But traffic did not pick up dramatically over the last decade. Last year, the airport welcomed 951,000 passengers, a growth of 9.5% over 2015. It is a far outcry from earlier projections of a passengers’traffic of seven to eight million by 2015.

The rise of the airport is very much conditioned to a proximity factor. Located 60 km north of Metro Manila, the airport is rarely to be reached in less than two hours due to infamous traffic jam in the Philippines capital. The much-promised rail link to Central Manila- due to reduce travel time to 45 minutes-failed so far to materialize.

With the Duterte government, investors are now encourage to speed up infrastructure development.  Two of Philippines wealthier families: the Gokongwei (who owns LCC Cebu Pacific) and the Gotianun are teaming up to modernize and operate Clark International Airport.

Roberto Lim, undersecretary for aviation at the Department of Transportation (DOTr), told recently to Filipino reporters that Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Inc. and the Gotianun family’s Filinvest Group proposed to invest PHP 187 billion (US$3.7 billion) to the government early this year. The proposal called for a 50-year concession period with the possibility to build a terminal and apron able to accommodate from 6 in an initial phase to 36 million passengers until 2030. If agreed, the expanded first phase of the airport would be available by 2020.