The Reason Why Manila Needs a New Airport Regardless of How Many Terminals We Build

Metro Manila is indeed the main gateway to the Philippines. It is also the primary airport in the country but sadly, it is simply comparable to a provincial airport in another country. With its present perpendicular runway set-up where one active runway can handle both narrow and wide body aircraft, NAIA can no longer handle the number of flights coming in and out the country. Despite all efforts to improve other airports around the country to decongest NAIA, these are all short term plans to a long term problem.

Photo credits: Gary Sato

If you will look back in Philippine history, the first airport built for the purpose of commercial aviation in Metro Manila was Grace Park Airfield located in Caloocan. This was built in 1935 and was later used by the Philippine Aerial Taxi Company, later known as Philippine Airlines. Then commercial aviation moved to the Manila International Air Terminal in 1937 or Neilson Tower. It's runways are now Ayala Avenue and Paseo De Roxas in Makati City. It was in 1948 when the commercial airport moved to it's present site, adjacent to the Villamor Airbase which was then Nichols Field. The first terminal for commercial aviation was located where NAIA terminal 2 is presently located. The runway of the Airbase and the commercial airport were shared, now RW 13/31. It was in 1954 when the international runway and taxiway used by larger airplanes was built, which now is RW06/24. So basically from 1954 to present, the only runway expansion done was extending runway 06/24 going towards Multinational Road.

More and more terminals were built around the 2 main runways, the original domestic terminal (terminal 4), the present terminal 1, followed by terminal 2 and then terminal 3. Despite the addition of new terminals, runways remained the same.

Perhaps, we can say that poor foresight and very short term planning were the main causes why there is no hope in expanding our runways. If you will also look at how NAIA runways were built, they are perpendicular to each other, and not parallel. Also, runway 13/31, being a used for military aircraft like fighter jets before, cannot accomodate wide body aircraft. Also, there are limitations when landing  at that runway. For take-off, RW13 can be used, but for landing, it's capability is limited. RW31 also cannot be used for landing since there are no guidelines for it. That makes 06/24 the only useable runway for all purposes, and once it is closed down, yes, the results were what you all witnessed during the last few days.

​Clark International Airport is now underground expansion in order to accomodate more passengers that can be used as an alternative to the already congested NAIA. It is also the only airport in the country that has parallel runways, but pilots were saying that they cannot allow 2 airplanes to take-off and land at the same time due to their distance between each other.

Using Google Earth, we took shots of some of the International Airports of our neighboring countries Singapore, Indonesia, Jakarta, Vietnam, Hong Kong, China, South Korea, and Japan. Notice that all of them have parallel runways, barely perpendicular ones. We also took a shot of the present NAIA.

A parallel runway system which most countries use is very beneficial especially in an event of lets say an emergency landing or runway closure where airport and airline operations are not hampered. This also allows faster turnaround times for airlines and less delays.

We now want to hear your voices. Given the present situation in the country, how would you want our new airport to be built, where (Sangley, the present area, or Bulacan), and why. Please do check also the pictures of the international airports of other Asian countries just so that you would know how badly we need a new international gateway to the country.
Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It's main runway (06/24) was built in the 1950s. Runway 13/31 was intended as a military runway.
Hong Kong International Airport. Dual parallel runways which they plan to add a third one.

Singapore Changi International Airport. Dual parallel runways presently and they are adding one more.
Shanghai Pudong International Airport. Looks like they are going for 3 runways, all parallel to each other.
Incheon International Airport, South Korea. Three-runway system.
Soekarno Hatta International Airport, Jakarta Indonesia. Dual parallel runways.
Bangkok International Airport, Thailand
Tan Son Nhat Airport, Vietnam
Haneda Airport, Japan. Quad runway system, all parallel with one perpendicular.
Narita Airport, Japan
Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia. Three runway system, all parallel.
Also if you will look at our other airports are the Philippines, most do not have dedicated taxiways and exitways, only turn around pads. The only airports which have dedicated taxiways are NAIA, Cebu, Clark, and General Santos. A dedicated taxiway allows a landed aircraft to right away clear the runway in order to allow the next aircraft to land. Our present system at most airports uses a single runway with only a turnpad, that means right after the aircraft lands, the pilot will turn around and use the same runway as a taxiway to go to the terminal. Hence, the only time the next aircraft could land is after the first aircraft taxis, hampering turn-around time which may result to delays incase of heavy traffic.

As for now, all we can do is to keep our fingers crossed that our government officials will see the importance of this new airport. Building an airport needs to be studied well hence, one reason why we cannot rush things, but we hope everyday, we make progress towards that goal. San Miguel has been pushing its Bulacan International Airport Proposal whereas others are pushing to reclaim land by Sangley which is already connected by Cavitex. A super consortium is also proposing to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport but as we say, for as long as we can no longer add runways, then everything will still be the same.

​Let us all hope that this new International gateway soon comes into fruitation!

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