Does Ninoy Aquino International Airport Need Terminal Five?

A representative of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines was quoted last week stating that constructing a fifth terminal at the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex in Manila would be a better solution than constructing a third runway.

Image Source: Skyscraper City
According to CAAP Deputy Director General Rodante Joya, the construction of another terminal would be less expensive and considerably faster than building another runway to handle the increasing number of flights. It would serve as a stop-gap measure until a newer and larger airport is built. 

In order for a new runway to be constructed, Joya stated that much would have to be spent to expropriate residential properties in the Merville Subdivision of Paranaque, which is very close to the existing international runway.

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila is currently unable to accommodate more flights due to the restrictions and limitations of its existing runway. But the Manila International Airport Authority and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines seem to believe that constructing a fifth terminal would be a viable alternative solution.

If NAIA Terminal 5 was to be constructed, only a few existing structures would require expropriation including buildings such as the Philippine National Police Aviation Security Group Headquarters and the Fire & Rescue Station among others. Catering and radar facilities would also need to be moved.

Joya cites the growing fleet of Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines as cause for the need of a new terminal. Philippine Airlines stands to add 38 aircraft by 2024, while Cebu Pacific plans to add 50 by 2021. Driving this proposal further is the belief that a new terminal to "ease congestion" could be completed before President Aquino leaves office. 

According to Jose Honrado, the General Manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, the proposal for the construction of a fifth terminal at the airport is already under study. "Kung mabilis nga lang yung feasibility study, dahil [Department of Transportation and Communications] project po 'yan, eh, substantially baka matapos siya bago June 30 of 2016," said Honrado.

Both the Manila International Airport Authority and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines believe a new terminal would cost less. But industry observers are quick to point out that cost is not the primary issue here. 

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
Last December, the Department of Transportation and Communications scrapped a plan to construct a P2.4 billion parallel runway that would have increased the number of aircraft that could be accommodated on an hourly basis at the airport. 

According to Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya, an aviation consultant recommended the construction of a new terminal over the parallel runway as it is believed that the existing runway could be better optimized to handle more aircraft. "The consultant said the main thing to do is preserve your main runway, maximize your main runway, try to eliminate all forms of obstructions or delays on it, keep planes off it most of the time," said Abaya. "Given that your main objective is runway optimization, planes crossing that is definitely not a welcome operation. Off hand he was saying, there's more prospects to a new terminal than a third runway."

The Department of Transportation has enlisted a Netherlands-based consultant to study the feasibility of the fifth terminal for Ninoy Aquino International Airport. However, that study will not be completed for nearly a year. 

"Now the runway optimization project, let us say it can increase the events to low 60s, high 50s per hour from currently 40, that will require additional terminal space so we have to create space at Terminals 1, 2, and 3," said Abaya. "Definitely, the new terminal is not the terminal that will absorb all that we need until 2027 or 2028."

The Netherlands-based To70 consultant, Ruud Ummels, recommended the new terminal over the parallel runway, while US-based MITRE and UK-based NATS pushed for the construction of a parallel runway.

Not everyone is convinced that constructing a new terminal will solve any problem at the already congested airport. According to columnist Boo Chanco, "Even if we build 10 terminals there but if there is only one runway, planes will still have to fall in line to take off and circle around to land. That is simple and logical even laymen should be able to understand."

Technical experts remain divided as to whether the Ninoy Aquino International Airport would be able to handle sixty aircraft per hour even with improvements to efficiency with only just one runway. If a new terminal is constructed and efficiency cannot be improved on the existing runway to accommodate more movements per hour, the congestion and delays would actually worsen.

There are other avenues that may help to ease congestion including the deployment of more aircraft to Mactan-Cebu International Airport, once their new terminal is constructed to increase its role as a transit hub. The Department of Transportation could also follow through on its promise to equip a number of domestic airports with the necessary infrastructure to enable night operations, which would enable carriers to schedule night flights to more provincial airports, easing congestion in the day time.

However, the construction of a third runway seems to be a necessary solution for the medium term. At this point, Clark International Airport does not seem to be gaining traction with the vast population of Metro Manila and a $9 billion high-speed train to the airport will not be constructed any time soon. 

It is true that the nation's airlines do require additional space to accommodate the number of aircraft that they plan to accept delivery of in the future. Expansion of Terminal 2 and the recent improvements to Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 may provide a temporary solution. But what this really means is that construction of a brand new international gateway needs to begin immediately. 


  1. Metro Manila needs a new first class airport with 4 parallel runways and a proper management and not a 5th terminal!

    1. Yes it may happen but, for the mean time it might ease the congestion

  2. Why don't they just focus on managing the terminals they have properly. The facilities are adequate if only someone would be bothered with monitoring the details. (Sorry guys - handwritten magic marker signs for Male and Female security lines are not world class, try to make an effort.)

  3. This is the result of inexperience people handling different positions in the government. It's been like several decades wasting people's taxes to hire different consultants, and they cannot even make decision what is best for the country. Study and thorough analysis is good but at the end the worst decision wins, and it took decades? Seriously? Not a joke right?

  4. Whats the point of building new terminal when the real issue is runway congestions..airlines now cant add new destinations or increase flight frequencies.what a waste decission!!!buti pa ang mga tao alam nila ang dahilan,itong mga opisyals dios ko po bat naging opisyal pa eh wala naman utak.!!!!

    1. actually, the runway is not really congested.

  5. The main reason of these officials gravitating to terminal 5 construction is the kickback involved! Poor Juan de la Cruz..

  6. These corrupt officials seem to have a penchant for this thing called "stop-gap" solution of building additional terminal in an already restricted space and congested runway whilst the real solution is to relocate and build a newer airport elsewhere where there'd be enough room for more runways and for future expansion.

  7. The answer is NO. Manila need new and much larger airport outside Manila, such as the proposed airport in Sangley Point at Cavite City.

  8. I'd push for Sangley. Although while constructing the new airport, they should simultaneously construct whatever it is they need in order to address the problem temporarily until the new airport is fully operational. If their priority is tourism, prioritize the airports because whatever they see, whatever they encounter, whoever they meet in the airport, it will be their first impression of the country.


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