By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter
AIRPORT infrastructure in the Philippine capital should adapt to the growing business aviation market, business jet maker Dassault Aviation said, noting that Clark and Subic airports are not ideal locations for Manila-based businessmen.
“The growth of the Philippines’ business aviation market, very specifically in the region of Manila, is extremely dependent on the evolution of infrastructure,” Jean-Michel Jacob, Asia Pacific president of Dassault Aviation civil aircraft, told BusinessWorld in a recent e-mail interview.
He noted that airport infrastructure should “support the growth of general aviation and business aviation.”
“Some measures have led many business jet operators to move out of Manila and relocate to Clark Airport or Subic Bay International Airport, which are available to business jets but not the most convenient airports for Filipino business people who are based in Manila,” he said.
“This is probably the most critical challenge the general aviation and business aviation sector faces in the Philippines today, aside from the COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) pandemic.”
To recall, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade issued Department Order No. 2016-019 on Oct. 9, 2016 directing aviation agencies to undertake the necessary measures to implement the transfer of all general aviation, except for helicopter operation and emergency medical airlift services, from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to other alternative gateways.
Mr. Tugade noted the NAIA congestion had become a critical issue “necessitating immediate and concerted government action.”
Despite the pandemic situation, the fleet of business jets in the Philippines remains “stable,” according to Mr. Jacob. “Business jet owners choose to retain their aircraft.”
The public health crisis has also triggered some appetite among some private customers who no longer want to travel via commercial airlines due to their “erratic schedule and concerns about sanitary hazards” on-board these flights, he said.
The company, he noted, receives more inquiries from Philippine-based customers these days about its Falcon business jets.
“Dassault Aviation answers to these inquiries for business jets proposing the type of aircraft most adapted to the prospective buyer requirement — Falcon 2000LXS and Falcon 900LX to fly non-stop to different destinations in Australasia; Falcon 6X, Falcon 7X and Falcon 8X for non-stop intercontinental flight to Europe and the Americas,” Mr. Jacob said.
“We are in active discussions and certainly expect to secure some contracts with these potential customers, who have shown an interest in our aircraft, depending of course on how the pandemic will affect the Philippines from a health and economic stand-point,” he added.
Dassault Aviation expects the current regulations imposed on travelers, especially on those arriving in the Philippines or flying overseas, to ease in the second half of the year given the ongoing vaccine rollout.
The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) recently completed the upgrade of NAIA’s airside facilities.
“The MIAA is confident that when additional airside-related projects are completed within the years 2021 and 2022, it can, on its own, achieve the goal of 60 commercial flight movements per hour,” the Department of Transportation said in a statement in February.
Manila’s main airport has been operating beyond its 30.5 million passenger capacity, handling 45.3 million passengers in 2018, 42 million in 2017 and 39.5 million in 2016.
The MIAA board had revoked the P109-billion NAIA rehabilitation project proposed by Megawide Construction Corp. and its foreign partner GMR Infrastructure Ltd. It also rejected the appeal filed by the Megawide-GMR tandem.
According to Mr. Tugade, MIAA General Manager Ed V. Monreal had spearheaded improvements at the NAIA terminals even before any talks of unsolicited proposals.