THE CLARK AIRPORT – SHORT-TERM HISTORY AND FUTURE PROJECTIONS
Abandoning the largest U.S. Air Force Base outside of the continental United States back in 1991 was not an easy task for America. Given the countless industrial/commercial buildings, residential quarters, officers homes, manicured golf courses, road network, two, huge 3.2-kilometer parallel runways capable of landing the space shuttle and over 100 years of U.S. occupation, it quite-possibly would have been easier to pull all the teeth of the resident Generals on-base than to abandon all that Clark Air Base had become to the U.S. Military.
This decision to evacuate was not made unilaterally though. Mt Pinatubo had a say in the matter spewing a thick blanket of ash throughout the base. The Philippine Senate also had its input regarding the 100 year U.S. occupation, and, during September 1991, convinced America to turn its back on billions of dollars of infrastructure when they rejected the ratification of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement.
Numerous reasons were given for the rejection of this treaty. This was a destructive blow to the Aquino administration, which was very-strongly in favor of maintaining the treaty and the presence of the U.S. Military with its economic benifit to the country. She even called for a referendum by the Filipino people that was later determined as unconstitutional.
Several years later, the former US Air Force Military Airlift Wing is now experiencing some major and exciting transformational processes, all without the presence or assistance of a super power.
CIAC TRANSFORMS AND MANAGES THE PROJECT
Since 1996, as a subsidiary of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the runways, airport buildings, infrastructure and surrounding areas of this former military installation is managed by and in the capable-hands of the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC). From the beginning of the transformation, CIAC has provided the organizational and management arm for the daunting job of transforming a former military airfield into a world-class international airport and logistics hub.
CLARK AIRPORT RENAMED
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in recognition of her father and former president of the Philippines, renamed the facility, Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA). Today it stands in honor to her father’s past administration and as a bright hope to current and future generations as a newly revitalized Philippine gateway, providing sustained commercial, industrial and tourism growth in the face of a new world economy.
CLARK DMIA EXPERIENCES SIGNIFICANT PASSENGER INCREASES
From humble beginnings in 2003 of only 7,880 international passengers, to over half a million passengers making their way through DMIA in 2007, this airport is an overwhelming success story in all of Asian airport history. As the long-term plans for this facility to be the premier gateway of the Philippines progress, projected estimates range from 20 million to 40 million passengers passing-through the new DMIA annually at fruition of the project.
BUDGET AIRLINES – MAJOR ANCHOR CARRIERS IN A FEW YEARS
Reasonable fares abound when you make your travel plans to locations in Southeast Asia from DMIA. A number of budget airlines have already committed to low-fare flights to many locations. From Clark, any part of Southeast Asia is reachable in 4 hours or less. Some of the current airlines include, Air Asia, Cebu Pacific, Seair, Tiger Airways and Asiana.
This airport is quickly becoming a major player in the Philippines aviation game as a leader in passenger numbers, only trailing the Manila NAIA Airport in total arrivals and departures.
But, as the plans of the Philippines government mature, this facility is due to become the premier international gateway for the entire country. Impressive indeed for a former military installation turned civilian airport!
Inline with these visions, we will witness additional major carriers in the near future. Airlines such as PAL, Cebu Pacific have already made commitments to Clark in the near future. Quite possibly, as infrastructure and plans mature, even large, world-class, anchor-carriers will be showing-up at the doorstep of this Pampanga province premier gateway to the world. Read further to see the potential and scope for the future of CIAC/DMIA.
ASIANA AIR OF KOREA FIRST TO GIVE CLARK ITS INTERNATIONAL FLARE
On October 29, 2003, Asiana Airlines had the honor to be the first airline to established international flights in and out of Clark. These flights brought tourists and businessmen to and from Incheon, South Korea. This initiated a new wave of international flights that has blossomed-forth ever since.
Some of the international destinations currently being serviced from DMIA include Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Macau, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Seoul Korea. Cebu, Caticlan are the current domestic travel offerings at Clark Airport.
ASIANA AND GROWTH OF SURROUNDING AREA
If you drive along Fields Road area, close to the Friendship Gate of Angeles City, just outside the Clark Freeport, the affect of the Asiana Airlines flights can be easily witnessed. A Korean explosion is in the making and very evident. As you drive through this district you see Korean businesses springing-up everywhere. It seems to be almost a Korea Town taking-root, due mainly to DMIA and its connection to Korea.
Korean nationals are not only finding the Angeles City area but also other tourist spots such as nearby Subic Bay, Baguio City and the beach resort area of Boracay. Many Korean businessmen are also taking advantage of the investment and business opportunities available to them in the Clark Freeport Zone.
TOURISM AND BUSINESS IN THE PHILIPPINES ON THE RISE
South Korean tourists began to discover the Philippines, and specifically, Clark and Subic Bay in ever-growing numbers. In fact, according to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), today they constitute the leading group of tourist by nationality in the Philippines.
According to the DOT, the number of business and pleasure travelers is on the rise in the Philippines with South Korean leading the pack. For the entire country in 2006, South Korea lead the arrival numbers reaching 572,133 while the U.S. was second with 567,355 and then Japan with 421,808.
For the following year, 2007, South Korea once again lead the arrival numbers reaching 653,310, a 14.2% increase, while the U.S. was second with 578,983, a 2% increase and Japan with 395,012, a 6.4% decrease.
The fastest growing arrivals percentage-wise between 2006 and 2007 were from China and Malaysia. These countries posted arrival increases of 18.0% and 23.3% respectively. Chinas arrivals in the Philippines in 2007 were at 157,601 while Malaysia’s were 65,695.
DMIA CLAIMS TWO CONSECUTIVE INDUSTRY AWARDS
Growth is one thing, but maintaining quality and performance in the face of tremendous growth is an accomplishment worth taking note. Two consecutive world-class awards from two different organizations speak volumes of an organization’s efforts.
In 2006 DMIA was awarded the “Low Cost Airport of the Year award from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).
Then, in 2007, DMIA was awarded the prestigious “Airport of the Year” award by Frost and Sullivan, at the Asia Pacific Aerospace and Defense Awards Banquet in Singapore.
Formulated in 1961, Frost and Sullivan maintain over 26 offices worldwide, and is a major, respected global research company. The company fields a staff of over 1,500 employees, with job titles ranging from economists, market researchers and technology analysts. These analysts and researchers are focused on the industries of aerospace, defense, energy, transportation, environmental-issues, technology, chemicals, food, power systems and more.
It looks like CIAC is entirely-focused and performing above and beyond the call of duty in their determination to witness the realization of DMIA becoming the premier gateway of the Philippines.
Cecilia Chang, Director-Sales of Frost & Sullivan, hands
CIAC President Victor Jose I. Luciano Airport of the Year Award
OPENING UP THE SKIES TO EVERYONE
The budget airlines at Clark have made air travel affordable to many mid and even low income individuals who previously were not able to consider flying as an option. The doors to foreign countries and exotic domestic resort spots are becoming much more accessible to all Filipinos. With airlines like Cebu Pacific offering round trips to destinations such as Cebu or Davao for a few hundred Pesos, more people from just about any income level in Central Luzon now have the skies open up to them.
This ability assists in maintaining strong family ties by allowing distant relatives to see each other more often and helps broaden the scope and experience of all people contributing to the socially connected strength of the Philippines society as a whole.
Reasonable plane fares and accessibility to air travel in a part of the country that previously had little or no air service, also helps to add dynamic business expansion and commerce possible to larger groups of entrepreneurs in regions previously restricted.
OFW'S EXPRIENCE CLARK'S ADVANTAGES AS THEY ACCOUNT FOR A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF AIR TRAFFIC
Convenience and price is the name of the game when it comes to offshore foreign workers from the Philippines traveling back and forth to their job countries. Many with offshore positions in countries such as Malaysia, Bangkok, Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong are now utilizing DMIA for their travels and taking advantage of the low fares available here.
Clark is strategically located to accommodate those OFW's from Northern and Central Luzon, home base to some 2.1 million workers. These Central Luzon OFW's have total remittances worth $5.6 billion a year to the country and amount to almost 40 percent of the total $14 billion dollars sent home by workers abroad.
These OFWs are very fortunate as they no longer have to book flights through Manila with the extremely advantageous option of Clark and its budget carries to the above named countries. These workers are able to avoid Manila traffic, heat and associated additional transportation fees to and from the big city.
The lower prices of budget carries assist dramatically with finances when it comes to maintaining family ties. Clark tickets prices to these countries not only are less expensive, but the prices tend to remain more stable throughout the year. These factors result in significant savings and contribute to greater family stability by enabling OFWs to experience more frequent visits with their children, wives and extended family members.
Recent developments in May 2008 include an agreement between Macau and the Philippines for a 15 fold increase, from 850 per week to 13,100 per week in the number of allocated seats to Macau. This addresses the need for increasing numbers of OFW Filipino workers in this gambling mecca. Up to 6,000 of these seat allocations have are allocated for Clark and Subic.
GOLF AND TOURISM EQUAL ARRIVALS AND DEPARTURES
One of the tourism-related focuses of CDC is to ensure Clark Freeport becomes branded as the “Golf Capital of the Philippines” and possibly all of Southeast Asia.
They have a great start in obtaining this title with Mimosa, a world-class course designed by a world-class golf course architect. This former golf course of U.S. Military officers and even once-played by Tiger Woods currently experiences daily totals of between 400 and 600 players.
At Fontana, besides their executive course, they have almost completed their new 18 hour championship golf course, the former True North golf facility is being bid-out and BB International Resort is currently developing another large course.
With Fontana starting its 1000 room, 18 story hotel complex, Widus Vacation Club aggressively working on its massive resort/hotel and numerous other hotels and resorts springing-up throughout the Freeport, Clark is ripe in the tourism/leisure/recreation industry as well. DMIA will continue to witness increased arrivals and departures associated with these tourist-related industries. It seems as though DMIA is going to reap benefits from every angle as the Clark Freeport grows and prospers.
AEROPOLIS – A NEW MEGA-CITY IN THE WORKS
Exciting plans abound for the long-term prospectus of the Clark Freeport and DMIA. After 15 years of conflict and negotiations with the indigenous Aeta people of the region, CDC has acquired 10,000 hectares of new expansion land area. CDC now has a total of almost 28,000 hectares of contiguous, raw land to work with and put to productive use over the next couple of decades.
The Clark governing body has designating a new, modern, 21st Century city to be built from scratch in the combined areas comprising existing and new land acquisitions in and around the Clark Freeport. Aeropolis is the named assigned this modern, Aviation-focused, master-planned, multi-use mega-city/mega-region.
CDC already has in a master-plan set-aside for Aeropolis comprised of 4,400 hectare main-zone and a 27,600 hectare sub-zone centered on an aviation-driven urban center that will be ideally suitable to high-end IT, airport-industries, logistics-related enterprises, agro-industries and tourism.
This type of long-term, far-sighted planning translates to exponential airport-related arrivals/departures and the ongoing future success of the Clark Airport as a major player in the world economy for many decades to come.
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