(STAR) By Ding Cervantes - "Detailed engineering studies" are now being finalized to double the size and capacity of the passenger terminal of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here and enable it to readily accommodate at least one million passengers a year, officials of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) said.

CIAC vice president Bienvenido Manga said the project will cost about P250 million and is expected to be finished and operational by next year. He said the DMIA now processes 40,000 arriving and departing passengers each month. "We now have 40 flights each month, with Tiger Airways flying three times a day and China Rich flying twice daily."

He said that patronage of DMIA has been increasing since international airlines introduced fares much cheaper than in Manila.

"A round trip ticket to Singapore could cost only half if the flight is from Clark, especially when the booking is done about two months in advance. A round trip ticket from Manila could cost P14,000 to P15,000, but it can be had only at about P4,000 if the flight is from Clark," Manga said.

He noted that most of the arrivals and departures at the DMIA involve the twice daily Singapore-Clark flights of Tiger Airways which also flies daily to Macau. A significant number of the passengers bound for Singapore, he said, are first-time Filipino travelers.

The DMIA also hosts flights of Air Asia which flies to Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia and Bangkok in Thailand. as well as South Korea’s Asiana Airlines, Taiwan’s Far East Transport Airlines Corp. (FAT), and Hong Kong’s China Rich and HK Express

Manga said a detailed engineering design for the expansion of the DMIA passenger terminal is now being finalized. "It has become too crowded at the terminal so we have to expand. We have to expand to at least double the capacity because we have to have separate terminals for departures and arrivals," he added.

He noted that the Canada-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) requires separate departure and arrival passenger terminals.

Manga also said that most of the flights at the DMIA are international, with only Asia Spirit and SeaAir providing domestic flights to various points in the country, including Boracay. He also noted a growing number of tourists from Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia.

He said that at present, DMIA operates only from 10 to 12 hours a day and could accommodate only three flights simultaneously. "We can’t operate 24 hours yet in terms of personnel and space. But when we expand, we have to also add personnel, and that also goes for the Bureau of Customs and other agencies operating at airport," he said.

"With an expanded terminal and more personnel, we can process arriving and departing passengers of four flights simultaneously," he said.

Earlier, theClark Development Corp. announced it set aside $1.5 million for a two-terminal feasibility study for the DMIA amid plans to transform the airport into the country’s premiere international gateway by 2015.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved