President Aquino Orders Construction of Third Runway at NAIA

President Aquino has ordered the construction of a third runway at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in an effort to ease air traffic congestion at the highly congested international gateway. The runway, which is expected to be able to handle aircraft as large as the Airbus A320, is expected to cost P2.4 billion.

Image Source: GMA Network
According to Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya, the government is presently considering whether that budget should be increased to include the construction of a fourth passenger terminal at the airport. However, it is definite that the President wants to pursue expansion and development at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. "The president's guidance was very clear," said Abaya. "We'll find ways to have this completed before his term ends because the benefits are clear."

Aquino is currently due to step down after his single six-year term ends in June 2016. The addition of a third runway can only serve as a temporary solution to the congestion that is plaguing the dilapidated airport in Manila, which is constantly ranked as one of the world's worst airports. The government is also considering the construction of a brand new international airport at Sangley Point, home of a former US naval base, located just southwest of the capital.

By adding the additional runway, capacity at the airport would increase from 42 aircraft taking off and landing per hour to 48 aircraft. However, if the fourth terminal building is constructed, it is believed that the take-off and landing rate could reach as high as 58 aircraft per hour. 

Abaya has not indicated where the construction of the new runway will take place around the borders of NAIA that are presently choked by residential subdivisions. The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines released earlier this year a diagram displaying the possible location of a third runway. However, critics question whether the move to construct a third runway and additional terminal will do more harm than good, comparing it to squeezing another table in an already over-crowded restaurant. Concerns remain as to whether the new measures will be used to alleviate space concerns and control capacity or if the Manila International Airport Authority will simply add even more flights and carriers. 

Meanwhile, proponents of the development of Clark International Airport are beginning to lose hope as President Aquino shifts his attention to NAIA. Advocates of Clark International Airport in Pampanga had been hoping that the airport, a former US military base, would become the twin world gateway of NAIA. 

However, businessmen and officials have observed that President Aquino does not seem interested in upgrading Clark International Airport in spite of its ample space for expansion and existing parallel runways that were constructed by the US Air Force. Proponents are not advocating for Clark to become a replacement for NAIA, but rather a complementary airport that can serve the needs of the metro region just one hour away with a dedicated rail or bus line. 

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport only has 700 hectares available for its terminals and other facilities. It is bordered by the Paranaque perimeter road to the northeast, the Multinational Village of El Shaddai leader Mike Velarde on the southwest side, and the South Luzon Expressway. 

Clark Airport, on the other hand, boasts 2,400 hectares for development with more than adequate space for an international passenger terminal, taxiways, parking aprons, cargo facilities, aircraft repair hangars, and commercial space. However, the issue still remains that Clark International Airport lacks a dedicated rail or bus line conveniently connecting the airport to the metropolis in a timely manner. 

Image Source: Clark International Airport
As the former home of the United States' 13th Air Force division, Clark currently has twelve aircraft hangars, six maintenance hangars, five cargo terminals, and two control towers. It used to handle heavy traffic during the Vietnam war including the large B-52 bombers. Each of the two runways measures 3.2 kilometres long, with a third runway available for smaller aircraft. In addition, the wide reinforced concrete runways have been constructed to the strict standards of the United States Air Force. They are even capable of landing the US Space Shuttle in the event of an emergency and the C5 Galaxy, the largest military cargo aircraft in the world that can handle 150 percent of the workload of a Boeing 747.

Although the runways are presently only configured to handle up to 30 take-offs or landings per hour. They are capable of accommodating up to 100 per hour during peak operations if necessary. The runways also comply with the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization. However, many believe that the airport is currently underutilized with weekly commercial flights reaching just around 73. 

The average number of daily flights is approximately 11 with the airport having served around one million passengers in 2013. At present, the airport is home to a handful of domestic and regional flights with the longest flight available from the airport operated to Doha by Qatar Airways. The airport is convenient for passengers hailing from Central Luzon. However, the rest of Metro Manila does not seem to be convinced. 

Both AirAsia Philippines and Emirates recently attempted to operate services from Clark. However, both carriers pulled out in favour of concentrating on operations at Ninoy Aquino International Airport, suggesting that there was insufficient traffic at Clark. Many believe that Clark International Airport would be an ideal gateway for low-cost carriers. However, the government is currently offering little incentive for carriers to shift from NAIA to Clark. As far as passengers are concerned, as long as low-cost carriers operate from Ninoy Aquino International Airport, there is little incentive to endure the inconvenience and hassle of travelling to Clark for minimal cost savings if any. 


  1. Another quick fix solution of the Philippine government. They are consistent with prioritizing the short-term benefits of everything.

  2. A320 is not a large AC...

  3. I think what is being pointed out in the article is the new runway can only accommodate planes as big as the A320 or planes smaller than the A320. Bigger planes will still have to use the main runway.

  4. Im not from north luzon but i think clark is the best solution for naia's poor condition. The airport is already there, lots of room for expansion, 3 runway can be built. Expressways are stone throw away. Just build the masterplan of that bloody airport.

  5. If it works and complies with IATA and other regulations then build it. Its not a quick fix. It is a long term solution. There is so much space at NAIA if only the landgrabbers and the squatters were removed. That is government land and its about time our givernment exercise its rights to that land.

  6. Clark as a main gateway? How about us from CALABARZON (CAvite, LAguna, BAtangas, Rizal, and queZON in case you don't know the region in the south luzon) is not a hour drive for us it would be 2-3 hours passing slex, edsa or C5, nlex and small portion of sctex plus a check-in time of 3 hours before the flight make passengers tired upon reaching the airport or even the fetchers/escort will also got tired when fetching or escorting their love ones in clark causing to have accidents along the way, but counter that of the rail system or bus system will also cause discomfort to the passengers especially with their baggage's as we carry two balikbayan boxes if we come or go to/from north america plus a medium sized carry-on stroller luggage, imagine that if we have to carry it to ride in the train or bus going to the airport, maybe for example the bus will go bankrupt for accepting only 5 passengers, going/coming to north america, every trip due to the limited bus compartment in putting balikbayan boxes.

    So I think rehabilitating NAIA and building a new airport in Sangley will make ease of travelers coming from the south luzon especially in the CALABARZON region, where many of travelers using NAIA are coming from.

    1. And btw our president is sometimes listening to the people because if not he would also want to make clark a main gateway, just like the past administration, because he's from the north.

  7. You can't use Clark's double parallel runway as a "pro". Try lining up two B747s/A380s on each runway and see if they won't hit each other.

    B52s and G5s were never landing/taking off at the same time on both runways.

  8. Let the government accept the unsolicited proposal from SMC, I believe this is the best solution and converting our Airport into a World Class better than HKG & SIN Airport.


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