CLARK INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT—As the number of this airport’s weekly flights reached 282, the viability of the national government’s dual-airport policy with that of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) has been confirmed.
This developed despite the contrary observations made by Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of International Air Transport Association (Iata), that Clark is not the best alternate airport to Naia.
The Iata executive was in the country to outline his views on the country’s airport situation during a business forum in Manila last month.
But Alexander Cauguiran, officer in charge of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), said the continued increase in flight operations of major airlines at this airport (Iata Code: CRK) is proof of its viability as a dual airport of Naia.
CRK’s weekly flights reached 282 since President Duterte called for greater utilization of this airport, and directed a dual-airport policy of operating both CRK and the Naia in Manila.
“Compared to previous years, more airlines are now appreciating CRK’s marketability and its increasing number of local destinations,” Cauguiran said.
He said CRK’s established domestic connectivity to major islands in the country has increased flight and passenger traffic.
The CIAC chief said CRK has already recorded 1.1 million passengers from January to October 31. Passenger traffic is projected to reach 1.4 million by year-end, even before the construction of the new passenger terminal and runway has begun.
“Clark can never be the main airport of Manila, and we do not compete with Naia operations since Clark caters to passengers from Northern and Central Luzon, while Naia targets Metro Manila and the southern population,” Cauguiran added.
“Right now, we are tapping a goldmine by servicing our catchment population of 21.4 million potential passengers. Airlines are appreciating this,” Cauguiran added, referring to CRK’s ready-market population from the Ilocos region to Central Luzon and the Cordillera Administrative Region, which easily entices airlines to mount operations here.
Meanwhile, Kazuhiro Ishida, Japan Airlines (JAL) country manager to the Philippines, said his management team is impressed with the potential of Clark and added that he will propose to JAL’s Tokyo headquarters the mounting of Clark-Narita flights.
The announcement came at the heels of a dialogue last Thursday between JAL executives and CIAC officials for possible servicing of Clark-Narita flights via Jestar Japan, a subsidiary of JAL which currently flies daily to Narita, Osaka and Nagoya in Naia.
“There is a huge demand of passengers, especially overseas Filipino workers, and will propose an initial Clark-Narita route,” Ishida said.
Accompanying Ishida during the meeting were other JAL executives, including Koji Yamazaki, Herr Obusan, Erwin de la Cruz and Kazunobu Akutsu, defense attaché of the Embassy of Japan, who is also coordinating with CIAC officials the forthcoming arrival of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in the country for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.
“We welcome JAL’s proposal as it will now be able to lure business travelers to CRK’s connectivity to tourist destinations like Palawan, Davao and Boracay and Clark Freeport’s world-class hotels and recreation facilities,” Cauguiran said, adding the influx of Japanese tourists will boost the local hotel industry and business communities in the region.
In addition to expanding its commercial horizons, the construction of CRK’s new terminal building can take in 8 million passengers annually, augmenting the existing 4.2 million passengers per year, for a total of 12.2 million passengers per year. The new terminal is scheduled to be finished by the first quarter of 2020.
The project is spearheaded by Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, and Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Vince Dizon, who also led the bidding on August 22 for the engineering, procurement and construction contract of the new passenger terminal project.
Cauguiran added that other ongoing negotiations for direct flights from Clark are the United States, Beijing, Kuala Lumpur, Taiwan and Thailand.
CRK serves a growing network of nine domestic and eight international destinations, and is connected to various global destinations via the networks of Emirates, Qatar, Cathay Pacific, Asiana and China Eastern.