CIAC prexy pushes for French-designed terminal

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The Aquino administration almost scuttled it but the new President and CEO of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) is now pushing for the construction of a French-designed terminal at the Clark International Airport.

CIAC President and CEO Alexander Cauguiran, who was designated Officer-in-Charge on August 19, said he will pursue the construction of the low-cost carrier (LCC) passenger terminal building (PTB) designed by the French firm Aéroport de Paris.

“President Duterte’s order to the airline companies to transfer flights from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport [Naia] to Clark is firm. It is final, knowing his style in leadership. We are anticipating growth and we must prepare for it,” said Cauguiran, who served as CIAC EVP-COO under the Arroyo administration.

Duterte was vocal in his desire to tap the Clark airport to decongest the NAIA, which had a record-breaking annual passenger traffic of 36,618,601 in 2015. The Clark airport’s passenger volume spiraled down with less than 1 million passengers in the same year.

“The design is free and is modular. We can extend it, that’s why I like it,” said Cauguiran, who toured the existing terminal, which can accommodate 4.5 million passengers annually.

“The previous administration under [former] President [Benigno S.] Aquino [III] reduced the capacity from 8 million passengers annually to 3 million. We want it restored to its original annual capacity,” Cauguiran said.

Under Aquino, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) approved the construction of the LCC-PTB, but the planned project failed to take off, due to disagreement over the French design.

In his first State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Duterte said other international and domestic flights at the Naia should be transferred to the CIA in Pampanga, 80 kilometers north of Metro Manila.

Aquino failed to categorically mention his desire to increase flights at Clark in all of his six Sonas. Annual passenger volume at the CIAvdeclined in the last three years of Aquino, whose hometown—Concepcion, Tarlac —is at least 12 km away from Clark.

In 2012 the CIA reached a milestone when it surpassed the 1-million mark. It had a total of 1,315,757 passengers (300,438 domestic passengers), based on a report from Hilarion Ritchie Nacpil, airport operations manager. The following year it had 1,200, 592 passengers, with 215,173 of them domestic travellers.

In 2014 the total number of passengers suffered a huge decline, dropping to 877,757. Domestic passengers went down to 90,948 due to the departure of AirAsia Philippines, which earlier established a hub in Clark. It previously offered local flights to Kalibo (Boracay), Davao City and Puerto Princesa in Palawan. In 2015 the total number of passengers dropped further, registering 868,528. The number of domestic passengers last year suffered its biggest drop of 41,824, compared to the record in the last five years. In 2011 there were 42,118 local passengers and 725,023 international passengers.

The lone domestic flight at the CIA is the Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) flight to Cebu. The Clark-Cebu route is serviced three times a week.

Cauguiran said Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade had met representatives of CEB, Philippine Airlines (PAL), AirAsia and other airlines “at least two times” since President Duterte delivered his Sona.

PAL already started to scout for an office at the Clark airport in anticipation of the transfer of some of their flights in Pampanga.

“We will give them all the necessary considerations just to make them transfer flights to Clark from the Naia,” said Cauguiran.

At least 16 flights take off daily from the Clark airport but no flights can be seen the whole afternoon every day.