By Patrizia Paola C. Marcelo

AIRLINES said they support the development of key airports in order to grow the aviation sector.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) said it would like to see improvements at Kalibo International Airport given the increasing demand for chartered flights between Kalibo to destinations, particularly secondary cities, in China and South Korea.

“The improvement of Kalibo is also important because Kalibo is becoming one of our important hubs… that’s one of our wishlist for the government, to make Kalibo a very efficient airport,” PAL President Jaime L. Bautista told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Aviation Day.

Cebu Pacific, a unit of Cebu Air, Inc., on the other hand is looking for additional airports to be built in Sangley in Cavite and in Bulacan, aside from the current efforts of government to make Clark International Airport (an alternative to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport) in Metro Manila.

“We’d like to see all the other things that can expand capacity like increasing access to Clark, the subway, rapid rail… We’d like to see additional airports being built in Sangley, [and] Bulacan,” Cebu Pacific CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei told reporters on the sidelines of a Cebu Pacific launch event.

Philippines AirAsia, Inc. is betting on future operations in Clark, as it is set to return in January 2018 and make the Pampanga airport its primary hub.

Philippines AirAsia has also said that it will propose to the government the creation of a low-cost carrier terminal (LCCT) similar to the old LCCT at Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The construction of more airports and more infrastructure for tourism is part of the massive infrastructure push of the government under President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The construction phase of the Clark International Airport’s (CIA) new terminal project is currently at the bidding process, and the Department of Transportation (DoTr) has forwarded to the National Economic and Development Authority Board for approval the proposal of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) to build an airport complex in Bulacan.

The government also plans to spend P600 million to P700 million for the development of Sangley Airport in Cavite.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) Director-General and CEO Alexandre de Juniac on Philippine Aviation Day acknowledged the efforts of the government to develop Clark but said that the government needs a new gateway nearer to Manila, as Clark is “too far” from the metropolis.

An ideal distance would be 45 to 50 kilometers from Manila, Mr. de Juniac said.

IATA also warned the Philippine government about privatization of airports because of higher fees charged by private operators which can lead to fare increase by airlines.

“Our experience [with the privatization of airports] is not good,” Mr. de Juniac told reporters in a press briefing, saying that privatization has “not delivered” on both quality of service and affordability. He added that the top five airports in the world in terms of service are all publicly administered.

The CEO of Philippines AirAsia has expressed concern over the growing privatization of airports in the country.

“It’s starting to become a problem worldwide. Many are privatizing their airports. Fees are increasing, so fares will increase,” Philippines AirAsia CEO Dexter M. Comendador told reporters on the sidelines of an AirAsia launch event.

Private corporations are still tapped for many airport development projects due to the massive funding needed to build and run airport facilities.

Aside from construction, operations and maintenance of CIA Terminal will be bid out to private companies.

SMC, through Trans Aire Development Holdings Corp., is leading the expansion of the airport in Caticlan under a build-rehabilitate-operate-transfer concession granted by DoTr.