Tourism players are not satisfied with the pace of the government’s infrastructure program specifically on air accessibility.
During the National Tourism Development Plan’s public presentation at the Asian Institute of Management, stakeholders aired out long-held concerns on air transport infrastructure particularlyon the country’s premiere gateway in Manila. They lamented that while much has been planned and promised, the same set of problems are still unaddressed up to now.
“The production of infra support is kind of slow,” said Avelino Zapanta, President and CEO of Southeast Asian Airlines and a private sector reactor during the forum held on May 21.
He pointed out the limited capacity of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport which, though spatially constrained for expansion, could be remedied by opening more night operational airports in the provinces.
“While it [NAIA] is operating 24 hours a day, many of the provincial stations operate on a sunrise-sunset daily,” said the airline executive.
The Department of Transportation and Communications already announced last year of a PHP434.5 million-worth of upgrading to open eight provincial airports for night operations. These are Tuguegarao, Roxas, Busuanga, Dumaguete, Ozamis, Dipolog, Cotabato, and Butuan.
The Department of Budget and Management, meanwhile, reportedly released PHP933.8 million to improve 14 airports for night operations.
But as far as Zapanta could recall, “I haven’t seen a single one of them for night operations.”
Manila could only handle a maximum of 40 flights an hour for both departure and arrivals. He disclosed that “we have already breached that, to a point when there are hours in a day when the operations of the airlines are bordering on the unsafe.”
This is a high concern for a country who depends ninety-nine percent of foreign traffic via airlines.
The DOT hopes secondary gateways will bear a portion of the international load. Even Undersecretary Daniel Corpuz admitted during the event that he is not satisfied with the growth in usage of these secondary airports.
The fundamental problem in Manila continues to press airlines, which now have to juggle with the technical limitations of the airport and with consumer outbursts when their flights get delayed.
While airport development is underway in key airports identified by the DOTC, airport managements have resulted in building polyvinyl chloride tent terminals for the mean time. This would lessen the congestion at Clark, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, and Puerto Princesa, where 1.2 million tourists are anticipated next year.