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Our City Airport Blues

The ‘new’ Filipino’s obsession with travel is well documented. One need only peruse the Facebook and Instagram feeds of our friends and acquaintances to see that; or witness the massive crowds that attend the travel fairs and sales that have become red-letter days for bargain hunter travellers. Whether it’s domestic resort destinations or cities abroad, there seems to be no stopping the mad rush of Filipinos heading to (and foreign tourists arriving at) our airports - and that’s where the game breaks down to one of attrition, frustration, and endless ranting. For such intrepid travellers, it seems we are cursed with airports that are sorely substandard; not to mention the horrible traffic congestion we can encounter just to get to these airports, and when inside the airports, to get our boarding pass.



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So with some interest that I read about another proponent bidding to handle the planned NAIA expansion. Along with the redevelopment of Clark, and the proposed Bulacan and Sangley, Cavite airports; it seems there’s no shortage of corporations ready to take on the responsibility of improving the Metro Manila airport situation. But do all really make sense, or only offer short term ‘fix it quick’ solutions? Let’s objectively and dispassionately look at the facts.

Clark already exists, but it is some 100km away from Metro Manila. It’s ideal for travellers who reside in the North; and along with Bulacan, makes sense for those who live nearby, or come from the Northern parts of Metro Manila. But if I lived in say, Alabang or Nuvali, the prospect of traversing through Metro Manila, and then to drive on to Clark, would be a nightmare during certain periods of the year.



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The proposed NAIA expansion is a short term solution; but honestly, name me first-world cities that have International airports right in the center of the city? Besides the obvious noise pollution and air safety, there are a host of other issues that have made it the trend for some decades now to move these airports outside of city centres. London has Heathrow and Gatwick, Tokyo has Narita and Haneda, Hong Kong has their International Airport at Chek Lap Kok (the former centrally located Kai Tak was mothballed in 1998), and it largely comprises of reclaimed land.

So as someone who lives in Makati; I really don’t understand why the Sangley, Cavite proposal isn’t being given the proverbial green light. Complementary to Clark, but much closer - it’s only 25km away from Roxas Boulevard with great connectivity via the Coastal Road and Cavitex; a Sangley airport would be great for servicing those who live in the South, and the provinces of Batangas, Laguna, Cavite, and so on.




I’ve seen the plan for Sangley, and it involves reclaiming land, like what happened in Hong Kong. That way, you don’t destroy the topography of the coastline or enter into disputes with land owners. So many of us have travelled to Osaka, landing at Kansai International Airport. That again is reclaimed land, an artificial island created within Osaka Bay. So, these kind of developments work, and are in use throughout the world. It’s a matter of also ensuring that the infrastructure for travel to and from the airport is efficient, convenient, and safe.

We’re talking about the future, not just for our kids, but for our kids’ kids. So I just hope we make the right decisions, and we think long term as well.