MANILA, Philippines – Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade on Wednesday, June 26, said he wants the construction of the Sangley Airport in Cavite to be done by September, earlier than President Rodrigo Duterte's target.
"Knowing me, ano'ng deadline ko? September.... Pinapa-advance ko (Knowing me, what's my deadline? September. I want it advanced)," he told reporters.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo earlier said that Duterte wants the construction of the Cavite airport to be done by November, being "displeased" with flight delays at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
The President wants some domestic flights transferred to the Sangley Airport by then.
Tugade said work in the former military base started in May 2018. The original target completion date of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) was December 2019, but because of the President's deadline, Tugade had ordered the construction to be done 24/7 to beat it.
The transportation chief said the runway is already completed, while the two hangars at the airport complex are 30% finished. The passenger terminal building is at 40% and the drainage system is 70% to 80% done.
The DOTr on Wednesday signed a pledge of commitment with local airlines – Philippine Airlines, PAL Express, Cebu Pacific, CebGo, and Philippines AirAsia – on the decongestion of NAIA and the development of the Sangley Airport.
Under the pledge, the airlines will "commit themselves to review" their flight operations. The DOTr wants them to "support the development and promotion" of other airports for "possible viable operations to decongest NAIA."
"Wala pang specific na recommendation 'yung airlines ano ipupusisyon [sa Sangley Airport]…. There will be domestic flights doon. Pinag-uusapan namin 'yun," Tugade said.
(There are no specific recommendations yet from the airlines which will be positioned at the Sangley Airport. There will be domestic flights there. We're discussing that.)
But of the airlines, only Cebu Pacific would be immediately able to transfer commercial flights to Sangley. It currently has 8 ATR 72-500 and 13 ATR 72-600 passenger turboprops.
"I think the first step of this is we will be having our cargo turboprop flights there," said Cebu Pacific president and chief executive officer Lance Gokongwei.
Meanwhile, PAL and AirAsia said their fleet currently does not match the Cavite airport's requirements. AirAsia only operates Airbus 320 passenger jets.
"Until Sangley is able to accommodate the jets, then we will consider moving our base," said AirAsia president and CEO Dexter Comendador.
PAL officer-in-charge Vivienne Tan said she is not sure if the flag carrier will have turboprops. She said they can "do some studies."
The Sangley Airport Infrastructure Group Incorporated earlier submitted an unsolicited proposal to develop the Cavite airport, but this was rejected by the DOTr.
The Cavite provincial government is also interested in developing Sangley and submitted its $10-billion proposal to the National Economic and Development Authority. Outgoing Cavite Governor Jesus Crispin Remulla told Rappler that the proposal will be "resubmitted with a more viable financial plan." – Rappler.com