Naia Terminal 3 finally starts full operations
MANILA, Philippines—Finally, the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 began to operate in full swing and serve foreign air carriers on Thursday night, more than a decade after legal issues had mothballed its rehabilitation.
And, for the officials of the foreign air carrier who transferred its operations on Thursday night, it was a better environment compared to its previous home, the NAIA Terminal 1, which was often described as aging and congested.
“This is a much better environment,” Steven Crowdey, director for Australia, Micronesia and Philippines of US-based Delta Air said in an interview, describing the 63.5-hectare Terminal 3.
From 2008 until Thursday, NAIA 3 had been servicing only selected domestic flights.
Delta Air made its first two US-bound flights out of the NAIA Terminal 3 on Friday morning, effectively decongesting the NAIA terminal 3 by 1, 500 passengers a day.
“Look at the passengers’ smiles. They all look positive,” Crowdey said adding that Terminal 3 had passenger lounges better than NAIA 1.
Delta Air which offers US flights via Japan was among the first to signify interest among the 34 airlines to transfer to the newly-rehabilitated terminal.
“This represents a very significant investment on our part. It was not easy and it took a lot of work, but it’s something that we want to do for our customers,” he said noting that the preparation for the transfer took them a year.
Even Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya could not deny that the full operations of the terminal that was supposed to be the country’s premier airport facility should have taken place more than decade ago.
“Imagine a decade, it’s not even months,” Abaya said in a ceremonial ribbon cutting at the Pacific Club executive lounge at the Terminal 3.
The project to build the NAIA 3 has been awarded to the consortium of German firm Fraport and the Philippine International Airport Terminal Co. but the contract was nullified in 2002 over allegations of irregularities.
Piatco filed a separate case at the Singapore-based International Chamber of Commerce, which however ruled in favor of the Philippine government in 2011.
“This project was awarded 17 years ago in 1997 and would have been completed in 2002, had it not been for the legal issues,” Abaya said.
Even the negotiation to resume the work at the NAIA 3 has been an arduous task for the government, he said.
“The negotiation to reach an agreement (with Takenaka Corp of Japan) took longer than the construction period. It even took two secretaries to negotiate,” Abaya said passing the credit to his predecessor Mar Roxas, now secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.
Since the Terminal 3 opened in 2008, it has been operating at only 52 percent of its capacity.
“It would have been easy for this administration to cite those legal issues surrounding the Terminal 3 to simply maintain the 52 percent operations. But we are not satisfied with this,” Abaya said stressing that the full airline operations of the terminal was one of the proudest achievements of the Aquino administration.
Four other foreign carriers are scheduled to also make the move from Terminal 1. After Delta Airlines, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is set to move to Terminal 3 on Aug. 4, followed by Emirates Airlines on Aug. 15. On Sept. 1, Singapore Airlines will also begin operating its flights in and out of Terminal 3. Cathay Pacific is expected to move in by the second week of September.
The transfer of the five airlines would decongest the Terminal 1 by 3 million passengers annually, Manila International Airport Authority general manager Jose Angel Honrado said.
Airport officials said Takenaka as of Friday has completed 98 percent of the work, with only minor activities left to be done.
Octavio Lina, NAIA Terminal 3 manager, said the transfer of Delta Air went on smoothly, except for two dozens of US-bound passengers who did not get the announcement right and went to the Terminal 1 to board their flights.
“But we expected it to happen. So we had stationed buses at the Terminal 1 to ferry passengers to Terminal 3,” he said.
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