Manila's competing mega airport plans

Two new 4-runway mega airports, an improving NAIA, and an expanding Clark airport, but no coherent masterplan for the airports of Manila.

Greetings from Ho Chi Minh City, where domestic travel is now back on the agenda. With no local virus cases recorded for over a month, things are starting to feel normal here. I will do a trip to Da Nang this week, so I should have some fresh reports about what is going on there.

With my commitment to publishing weekly at Living In Asia I’m developing a publishing schedule to give me focus. I now have a long list of potential topics to write about, but it’s getting to the point where I just scroll through the topics like looking for something to watch on Netflix.

This week I picked a topic in the Philippines as I haven’t written anything about the Philippines until now. I was booked in to go to Manila in April, and then the coronavirus upended my plans. I am overdue for a visit.

Anyway, I’ve now opened my Philippines account at Living In Asia, starting with the New Manila International Airport.

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New Manila International Airport

Manila is currently served by Ninoy Aquino International Airport. I’ve been to every capital city airport in Southeast Asia except for Naypyidaw and Bandar Seri Begawan. Even without visiting those two I feel confident in saying that Manila International Airport is the worst capital city airport in Southeast Asia.

Putting aside its terminals and transferring issues, the main problem with NAIA is that it has two intersecting runways, effectively making it an airport with 1.5 runways.

[Image via Wikipedia.]

There was a study to build a third runway, but the airport is in a built-up area so the new runway would cross the main runway. They are better off moving and starting afresh with an airport with parallel runways.

The other airport serving Manila is Clark, which is too far from Manila to be called a Manila airport. This is popular with low cost airlines, though now it has a solid list of international airlines like Asiana, Emirates, and Qatar. Clark airport is near the future Clark New City and its a useful airport for this region, and it is currently being expanded. Even with a proposed high-speed railway it still can’t be considered as a primary airport of Manila if its 100km away.

There are two competing new airports for Manila: Bulacan International Airport (the New Manila International Airport) and Sangley Airport.

Bulacan International Airport was meant to start construction in December of 2019, but it was already facing delays before COVID-19 struck.

Sangley airport is a former Philippine Air Force base which has been upgraded to accommodate small aircraft (turboprop aircraft).

While it’s not a bad idea to have another airport alternative for a megacity like Manila, Sangley are also planning a $10-billion expansion that - like Bulacan - will have 4 runways and be able to serve 100 million passengers a year. To do this they would need to reclaim land from the bay.

It would be madness to allow two competing airports to build airports the size of Beijing Daxing International Airport for one city.

Meanwhile the Transport Secretary said in 2018 that he estimates that Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) has a remaining lifespan of 10 years. Despite this, NAIA is still planning on renovations and expansions when it should be looking at winding down operations.

It has been suggested that NAIA be closed and the land be redeveloped, which the land sale would be able to contribute to other infrastructure projects.

Allowing competing mega airports in one city is not the sort of thing where you want to “let the market decide”. The government needs to make a decision about which airport is going to be mega. In the region you already have competition from the future Ho Chi Minh City airport and Phnom Penh airport, both of which have aspirations to be a 4-runway aerotropolis.

Here is the fact sheet for the New Manila International Airport:

Environment News

“The Chinese Embassy in Bangkok on Monday dismissed a US-funded study accusing China’s dams of hoarding water in the vital Mekong River.”

“Denmark and Vietnam are working on finding ways to further boost Vietnam's offshore wind development, which according to the Danish Energy Agency, has a potential of 160 GW offshore wind.’

“While the global pandemic has been devastating for economies and lives across the world, it has been undeniably good for the environment. As cities across Southeast Asia have shut down, air quality has steadily and uniformly improved – that is in all but one city.”

Other News


“Plans in Cambodia for a massive tourist resort on an out-of-the way island don‘t add up and may serve a different goal.”

“The residence of the late legendary architect Vann Molyvann is up for sale according to a local real estate company’s Facebook post.”


“Lockdowns brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic have had clear positive effects on pollutions levels across Southeast Asia’s major cities. But one city, notorious for its pollution, bucks that trend. Why has Jakarta’s air quality worsened during the lockdown months?”


“Fitch Ratings says Laos' finances are 'inadequate' to meet its foreign debt payments owed largely to China.”


“Even as factories close and many people stay home, air pollution in Yangon has remained stubbornly bad, and the agriculture sector may hold the answer.”


“The monorail system will feature an elevated structure made of steel-reinforced concrete and cover a total of 11 stations, running from Pattaya railway station to Northern Pattaya Road, Pattaya Sai 2 Road and Thap Phraya intersection before terminating at Bali Hai Pier.”

As mentioned in the newsletter about the Bangkok 3-airport high-speed railway, Pattaya has been planning for some sort of transit system to connect the train station to the beach.

“Residents of Soi Sukhumvit 61 are protesting against a planned, luxury condo development with Khunying Chada Wattanasiritham -- chairperson of Siam Commercial Foundation -- vowing to protect the community from the project, which will see a 43-storey high-rise built on the street.”


“Vietnam’s industrial real estate will benefit as foreign investors move production out of China after the Covid-19 pandemic, industry insiders say.”

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