THE upgrading of the Clark International Airport is well underway, following groundbreaking rites for a new terminal building which, when completed, will be able to handle eight million passengers a year. It is at the center of a major infrastructure program for Luzon that includes expressways to the north and to the east.
It will ease the tremendous pressure on the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) which, with its lone major runway, has long suffered from congestion as thousands of passengers arrive and leave the country every day in this premier gateway. A new airport has been approved for construction in Bulacan but it will take time before it is ready. Clark is ready and available with two major runways that used to serve the United States Air Force in operations in East Asia.
The Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) recently announced it has chosen the winning bidder for the 25-year operation and maintenance of Clark Airport, both its existing passenger terminal and the new terminal upon its completion. The winning bidder, the North Luzon Airport Consortium (NLAC), will draw from the vast experience of Singapore’s Changi Airport.
It took seven months, from May to December, to vet NLAC’s private sector partner. After five postponements and revisions of the qualification requirements, most of the aspiring firms were eliminated. President Duterte was urged to look into the delay and into the vetting process, as the stringent qualification requirements succeeded in eliminating so many bidders. Finally, on December 21, 2018, the BCDA awarded the contract to the North Luzon Airport Consortium..
The bidding was questioned by the Alliance for Consumer and Protection of Environment, Inc., which cited the numerous amendments in the Instructions to Bidder and repeated changes in the date of submission. “The unreasonably specific terms seem to deliberately favor one bidder…. The winning bidder was unopposed at the end of the bidding,” the Alliance noted.
It would be unfortunate if the new Clark airport management would begin its operations under a continuing cloud raised by the questions of the Alliance. The BCDA may well insist that all legal requirements were complied with but it should be able to answer continuing questions that have not been stopped by the awarding of the contract.
We look forward to a renaissance in Philippine travel with the full use of Clark, after all these years of neglect, but it will have to be accompanied not only by the planned expressways to the north and to the east, but also by fast-track rails south to Metro Manila which remains the political, economic, and cultural center of the country.