July 16, 2008

Philippines: New Airport Terminal to Open in Manila

Text of report in English by Philippine newspaper The Philippine Star website on 15 July

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Passenger Terminal 3 (NAIA- 3), which opens next week, will be a "terror-proof, accident-free and criminal-shielded airport," the head of the presidential task force overseeing its operations said yesterday.

Michael Defensor, chief of the Presidential Task Force on the NAIA-3, also gave assurances that the "dry-run" of the facility on July 23 for domestic flights will not run into legal troubles over the issue of ownership.

"Safety is a paramount concern, in-and-out, front-back-centre of this sprawling airport," Defensor said. "We want a terror-proof, accident-free, criminal-shielded airport. So even the smallest details are being looked into, like stairs, because we don't want a passenger to slip and break a leg."

He said apart from the closed-circuit cameras, scanners and x- ray machines, the facility will have other security and safety devices compliant with US Federal Aviation Agency standards.

The airport would also have other facilities that he said would ensure passenger comfort and hassle-free transit.

He said there would be simulations to be conducted today at the NAIA-3 or a week before it operates for domestic flights of carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) Express, Cebu Pacific, and Air Philippines.

He said all systems of the facility are being tested to probe the airport's ability to function not only under normal conditions but also in "every imaginable contingency."

"If it was human, NAIA-3 is being put under a treadmill stress test. Our engineers are simulating situations to see if so-called redundancy systems will kick in," Defensor said.

He, however, said the biggest challenge was to work up the airport to full operating condition.

"All airports have birth pains and the challenge is to iron out the kinks once you see it. But this one has been in labour for too long," Defensor said.

He said there would be an initial 20 domestic flights on Wednesday next week of Cebu Pacific, Air Philippines and PAL Express.

Defensor said Cebu Pacific alone has about 140 flights daily "but I don't think we can reach that in the initial stages (of operations)."

He expressed hope that by early next year, NAIA-3 would be able to fully handle domestic and international flights.

Defensor said revenues of the NAIA-3 would be placed in escrow to build up funds to compensate its builder, the Philippine International Air Terminal Co. (Piatco).

He said part of the earnings would also be used for operating expenses.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot exercise full ownership of the NAIA-3 unless it compensates Piatco.

Originally published by The Philippine Star website, Manila, in English 15 Jul 08.

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