Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Duplicitous duality
By Bong Lacson

Nov 07, 2017

“COMPARED TO previous years, more airlines are now appreciating Clark’s marketability and its increasing number of local destinations.”

So, reported Clark International Airport Corp. president-CEO Alexander S. Cauguiran, citing the increase in flights – 282 a week – as “confirming the viability of the national government’s dual airport policy” that President Duterte directed on the Clark International Airport and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

No, Cauguiran is too modest to toot his own horn for laying the schema before the thenstill president-elect on the Clark-NAIA duality – his lifelong advocacy fi nding in April 2016 the collective push of local stakeholders in the – what else? – Advocacy for Dual Airport Priority (ADAPT).

Complementation rather than competition. Concedes Cauguiran of the modus vivendi between Clark and NAIA: “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 Luzon population.”

He enthused: “Right now, we are tapping a goldmine by servicing our catchment population of 21.4 million potential passengers and airlines are appreciating this.” Referencing the Ilocos, Cagayan, Central Luzon and Cordillera regions.

The immediate results are proof positive of Clark’s viability – 1.1 million passengers already just for the period January to October 2017, projected to rise to 1.4 million by the year’s end.

All this even before the start of the construction the new passenger terminal and runway!

Yes, at last, at last, at long last – after the epic mirages of Al Kharafi , Bristeel, Philco Aero and what not – the new passenger terminal is fast shaping to be for real. All of its eight million passenger capacity in addition to its current 4.2 million actual capacity per year!

The project, set for completion in 2022, is – a CIAC press release stressed – “spearheaded by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade and Bases Conversion and Development Authority President Vince Dizon who also led the bidding last August 22 for the Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) Contract of the new passenger terminal project.”

Ay, there’s the rub – Tugade!

SMC gains edge in Clark airport project

So, reads a headline in the dated Oct. 28. Lousy headline writing there impacting bitter sarcasm, if unwittingly.

There is absolutely no mention of Clark in the whole of the news story that is all about SMC’s long-time dream of an international airport in Bulacan, to wit:

Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) obtained the coveted original proponent status for its proposal to build a P700-billion “aerotropolis” in Bulacan province, giving it a big advantage ahead of a bidding process yet to be set by the government.

This was confirmed yesterday by Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, who spoke to reporters at the sidelines of the Philippine Aviation Day business forum in Makati.

Tugade said a final decision would be made by the board of the National Economic and Development Authority, chaired by President Duterte…

“A formal proposal (for Bulacan) was submitted to us, and we have gone over it, the completeness of the proposal. We have forwarded it to the Neda for final approval,” Tugade said.

On another private sector offer to build an international airport in Sangley Point, Cavite, Tugade said they were waiting for the formal submission of the proposal.

Where stands Clark with an airport in Bulacan? Can it maintain its dual airport status with another – a much, much bigger one – in the same neighborhood?

Please do not dismiss this point with a nonchalant “Plano pa lang naman yung Bulacan airport.” It is an insult to our intelligence.

The “coveted original proponent status” is just much too much for SMC, astute a business conglomerate as it is, to just let go to naught. As the news story itself says: An original proponent status gives a fi rm an advantage should the project be auctioned off under a Swiss challenge, a bidding process that allows other interested parties to submit competing offers. However, the original proponent holds the right to match the best off er that will come out of the exercise and win the project.

And bringing into the SMC equation the International Air Transport Association with its “support for a new air gateway close to Metro Manila with a capacity of at least 100 million passengers per year” makes a virtual fait accompli.

Ay, even as Tugade is being idolized hereabouts for his “spearheading” the development of the Clark airport as worthy pair to NAIA, he could be idiotizing us with these slick, if duplicitous, moves to bring about SMC’s airport dream in Bulacan.

What says you, Cauguiran, Sir?

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