Sangley Point – NAIA5 or another White Elephant?

Sangley Point

Sangley Point, a former US Naval- and Airbase, could temporarily help reducing the permanent congestion of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Could …

President Rodrigo Duterte has ordered the immediate transfer of domestic flight operations to Sangley Point in Cavite to ease the congestion at Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

As if airports existed only of aircraft and runways! An airport is an extremely complex operation. Transforming a military airbase into a civil airport can be compared with making a 5 star hotel out of military barracks. There are common points like the need of runways and the need to let sleep people in some rooms. It is feasible but needs many years.

Sangley Point Air Operation

The two runways MNL 06/24 and NSP 07/25 are almost parallel. Their horizontal separation is about 4900 meters or 3 miles. This separation would allow same time full operation of both runways. See also here. Sangely Point’s runway has even a parallel taxiway with 7 exits in both directions. But then MNL RWY 13/31 could only be operated in direction 130 degrees. This should be OK for general aviation.

Sangley Point - Airways
NSP, the new Manila airport or just another terminal?

Air Traffic Control may be happy

Air Traffic Control will go nuts
This is an early afternoon snapshot (2019-06-14 @ 2:05 pm)

ATC (Air Trafic Control) staff in Manila is really at their limits. The mixed traffic composed of heavy intercontinental planes, lighter medium range aircraft and very light and slow general aviation gives them permanent headache. The line-up of similar aircraft on one runway would make their job much more comfortable and much more productive.
But will there be appropriate equipment be available in this short time? Will ILS, DME, VOR and radio frequencies be ready when the swap comes? Will the handling procedures between approach, tower and ground be established within 5 months? I am really not sure. But it’s not me who gave out the order – it’s the president.

Ground Operation Horror in Sangley Point

The monstrous problem of Sangley Point is the ground operation.  We already recommend at least 3 hours for transfer within today’s Manila airport. If domestic flights move out to Sangley, then we would have to increase to at least 5 hours. 
How can you get from MNL to NSP? 

  1. By helicopter: This is the expensive luxury option reserved to a few people. But these people usually fly with their own aircraft. 
  2. By fast-ferry: There are ongoing tests with ferries from Mall of Asia to Sangley Point. They say that the trip will last only about 25 minutes. 
  3. By road: Good luck! There are 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 lane roads. They are all filled with the notorious Philippine road traffic.

Number 1 does need no discussion. It is way off for normal travellers. Number 2 could be an option. But you first need to drive to Mall of Asia. This isn’t a real pleasure during peak traffic. And neither at Mall of Asia nor at Sangley Point exists the needed infrastructure. There are no terminal facilities, no parking and no luggage and cargo handling. Building such facilities needs much more time than putting a runway in the landscape. And number 3? Google is very optimistic …

Travel time between MNL and NSP.
One to one and a half hour on the road. But only when traffic is flowing.

Slow politic and administrative processes

Already more than ten years ago Cavite’s Sangley Point entered into the focus of law makers. 2013 the All-Asia Resources and Reclamation Corporation (ARRC) under Henry Sy ordered a feasibility study for a new Manila airport. In December 2016, the ARRC also proposed to the Duterte administration a plan to develop the existing Danilo Atienza Air Base and its 2.4 km long runway into a facility for low-cost carriers and general aviation “while waiting for the new airport.” The “new airport” is the “San Miguel airport” 36 km north of Manila to be built in Bulacan.
Nothing happened until June 2019. And now the president wants Sangley Point to be operational by November 2019in 5 months!

Avoid Manila when ever you can

Fortunately there exist at least 2 alternatives. Clark (CRK) in the north and Mactan-Cebu (CEB) in the south offer international and domestic flights. Both airports still are of human size. Cebu’s new terminal 2 is even a pleasure for travellers. But Cebu also fights with the lacking ground infrastructure. Especially the road link to the City is still awful during peak-time. Fortunately the third bridge is already under construction. It might be finished before the first flights leave NSP.

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