AirAsia Philippines bullish on Clark

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By Denise A. Valdez

PHILIPPINES AIRASIA, Inc. is hoping to transfer its headquarters from Pasay City to Clark in Pampanga, but its plans are hampered by the lack of infrastructure connecting the airport to Metro Manila.

Philippines AirAsia President and CEO Dexter M. Comendador said he is “bullish” on Clark as the alternative gateway to the perennially congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City.

“I’m moving my headquarters to Clark. So what does it mean? It means the potential is really good. Kaya lang nga [But] I need the infrastructure,” he told BusinessWorld last week.

“We wanted three things from Clark, which the government is doing. One is the P2P (point-to-point) buses, which happened already. Add more frequencies na lang [They just need to add more frequencies]. The second is the NLEx-SLEx (North Luzon Expressway-South Luzon Expressway) Connector Road, which is almost to be done, by late next year. The third one is the train. But I can wait, I can do with the first two already,” he added.

The distance of Clark International Airport from Metro Manila has been a point of concern for airlines and passengers, who prefer NAIA despite being heavily congested.

“How do you bring people to travel to Clark? Make it easy for them to go there. And then motivate them to go there,” Mr. Comendador said.

He said infrastructure such as the NLEx-SLEx Connector Road and the North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) are some of the developments that will ensure connectivity from the Philippine capital to Pampanga, and encourage more passengers to use Clark airport.

NLEX Corp., the government concessionaire for the NLEx-SLEx Connector Road project, said last month it is on track to finish the toll road by December 2020 as it looks to start construction by first half of next year.

The NSCR, also called the Philippine National Railway (PNR) North 1, is preparing for the bidding which is set to begin by mid-September.

PNR General Manager Junn B. Magno told BusinessWorld in a text message on Sunday the two contracts for the construction of the 37.9-kilometer railway will be awarded between November and December.

Philippines AirAsia is looking to expand its fleet to 70 aircraft in the next 10 years, in sync with the AirAsia group’s plans of adding 400 planes over the same period.

“So we have to distribute the planes to the countryside. It will spur development then,” Mr. Comendador said earlier.