Seair CEO: 2016 Tourism Goal Unlikely Due to Poor Infrastructure

Seair International President and Chief Executive Officer Avelino Zapanta has publicly revealed that he does not believe the government will be able to reach the national goal of 10 million tourists by 2016 as a result of countless postponed infrastructure projects. 

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Image Source: Southeast Asian Airlines
According to Zapanta, who also teaches Air Travel Management at the University of the Philippines and is a former President of Philippine Airlines, the commercial aviation outlook in the country once looked very positive with annual growth rates reaching 14 percent annually. "But now, I no longer believe that we can achieve 10 million tourists because of poor infrastructure," Zapanta said in an interview with the Business Mirror. 

He added that even the Civil Aeronautics Board confessed that the growth rate in the first nine months of 2013 was flat compared to the previous three years. This can be directly attributed to factors including the armed conflict in Zamboanga, new airline regulations, and more notably, congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Zapanta highlighted statistics from the Civil Aeronautics Board that indicated that passenger traffic of the country's six domestic carriers was down half a percent in the first half of 2013. "That's even worse than flat," said Zapanta. "Actually, it is a negative growth."

The positive outlook of the past encouraged airline conglomerates like Tiger Airways Group and Air Asia Group to enter the Philippine market. However, both carriers have struggled since entry into the market and have failed to achieve profitability to date. In addition, Zapanta noted that local airlines are unable to expand due to slot congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

"The premier airport is saturated, the airlines are quarreling for slots," said Zapanta. "At the same time, they're simply recycling their slots." Since airlines do not have the ability to add additional flights, if a particular flight is not performing well, airlines will simply discontinue it and replace it with a more profitable flight.  

Zapanta added that the ability to operate domestic flights at night would help to reduce congestion at the country's main gateway and increase capacity at the airport. "There have been suggested solutions to improve that, like making full use of evening hours for more flights to be operated," said Zapanta. But the plans of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, which promised additional provincial airports to be rated for night operations, have not materialized."

The recently opened newly built Laguindingan Airport in Cagayan de Oro is just one example of an airport that Zapanta highlighted cannot be operated at night. "These problems are catching up with us. In Mactan, the same thing is going to happen because its construction has been delayed many times due to bidding problems," said Zapanta.

In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan, the US Military was able to set up temporary infrastructure with minimal resources in a matter of days to enable the Tacloban Airport to operate 24 hours a day to accommodate the influx of relief goods. But since the United States relinquished control to local authorities, the airport is now back to daytime operations only. 

The real question on people's minds must be if the United States can do it in a matter of days in an emergency scenario, why can't Philippine authorities get its act together under the best of circumstances? Installing even just a temporary solution would go a long way to addressing congestion issues and improving the experience for the travelling public until a permanent solution can be established.

Zapanta also reiterated the failure of the government to identify and execute a long term plan for the country's main gateway. He highlighted the interest of the commercial aviation industry in a dual-airport system using both Manila and Clark. "In recent weeks, how many flights have been diverted to Clark because of congestion in Manila? That's practically telling us there is a need for Clark to supplement and complement Manila," said Zapanta. "They are now thinking of other sites like Sangley, which will require reclamation. But based on our track records, when we build an airport, it takes decades." 

Zapanta noted that after three decades, NAIA Terminal 3 still remains unfinished. "If they reclaim in Manila Bay to make Sangley Airport, it would probably take half a century to finish," said Zapanta. He added that to alleviate the current problems in the short to medium term, the government needs to make the necessary decisions including the elimination of the general aviation area from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. However, the administration failed to do so due to lack of political will. 

"It's the interest of a few rich people against the interest of the entire country and the travelling public. Their tiny jets occupy the same time, which is the same time you could have used for a wide-body aircraft carrying hundreds of passengers, instead of a business jet carrying only two or three executives," said Zapanta. "Where's the economic sense there? They give priority to executive jets rather than commercial jets."


  1. agree.. its all dirty politics

  2. This admin just does not know how to run a country. Period!

  3. Tama si Zapanta. Iyan din ang aking matagal ko nang napapansin. At dagdag pa kay Zapanta, bakit Clark International Airport ang magiging ka-dual airport system ng Ninoy Aquino International Airport? Sana'y gumawa na lang ng bagong airport malapit sa Manila at yun ang magiging ka-dual airport system, halimbawa'y sa Cavite o sa Bulacan. At yung Clark International Airport ay para sa mga taga-Pampanga at mga taga-Norte.

  4. the present management of the civil aviation industry is incapable of managing the industry, the airlines, the airspace and even itself!


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