US$ 3B development project to double Manila airport capacity to 62 million

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  • cwoodward

    Anyone who has ever needed to use Manila airports main terminal in the past 15 years will
    know first hand how hopelessly inadequate the under pressure terminal is.

    With traffic booming almost every flight is now being delayed but fortunately the long needed project tender is set to be let on the 15th February start by mid 2024 and finish by end 2025.

    India’s GMR group or a group backed by the Philippines’ biggest conglomerate, San Miguel Corp, who offered the highest revenue share for the government are the likely successful bidders from a final short of four groups.

    The airport handled 48 million passengers in 2019 prior to the pandemic, well beyond its 33.2 million capacity and this project is set to nearly double the capacity to 62 million.


    Long overdue. It’s been the worst airport in any capital city in Asia Pacific for a long long time.
    Vietnam and Cambodia have long surpassed Manila with better airport facilities.
    Some of my worst airport experiences in 40 years of business travel in Asia have all been at NAIA.
    Even the newer terminals like T 3 are well below par for a major capital city. Shockingly bad in all aspects.

    They can’t even sort out the approach roads to the terminals to give traffic light free approach for cars, buses, taxis.


    Good luck to them on getting that finished by end of 2025. Sounds like fantasy stuff.

    Is the new Bulacan project still trundling along? Surely that’s the best bet, move more traffic to Clark and elsewhere.


    a couple of months ago I was around the Clark area and can report that the rail link is well underway with some track laid and the supports built for the elevated sections…..still in progress.

    The terminal expansion at Clark is advanced with some areas already open

    More to do but it it is progressing at a reasonable pace.


    The process for this PPP opportunity was rushed through before the PPP rules changed in the Philippines on the 1st of January 2024, so this might be reviewed by the Government.

    The runway layout, airspace constraints and slots held for the Government make the expansion plans to 60 mppa very hard to achieve. As pointed the airport capacity is already being exceeded and to expand on the restricted site will be a complex undertaking which will only impact current operations.

    Bulacan Airport proposed by San Miguel has gone through many iterations of procurement for design and the only package awarded was the coastal and reclamation work as far as I am aware.


    I stand to be corrected but my understanding is that the mentioned plan involves some work the passenger terminals and changes to the airport control systems and how the traffic is managed on the 2 available runways. The changes are according to reports are to be 99% non-structural.

    Apologies if the below is rather long but I became interested to find out the details of this upgrade once I read how poor and dangerous the current systems are. The more I look the more shocked I became re the decerped equipment and systems being employed by the Airport Control -totally third world, inefficient and dangerous. The airport has no visual control radar!

    Runways + Air Traffic Control systems

    From the consultants report ” ”
    “The air traffic control system is antiquated and grossly inadequate and the lack of instruments, especially the visual radar, is major disadvantage. Air traffic controllers rely solely on the radioed messages from the pilots. The aerodrome control unit and the approach control unit are not located in the same area in the tower; thus, the queue of arriving aircrafts is handled separately from that of the departing aircrafts. Communications between the two units would likely take less time if they were in a common room. The sequencing of aircrafts was seen to be on a first come, first served basis. Hence, aircrafts were not systematically arranged to observe minimum ROT. There were instances when the required minimum separation could have been reduced following a strategic queue. Lastly, international arrivals are allowed only on Runway 06/24, so flights must be planned to maximize arrivals because as an aviation rule, arrivals are given priority over departures.” “The average delay experienced by each aircraft due to operational inefficiencies is at around 14 minutes.

    Currently the capacity is 40 aircraft movements per hour ( the absolute maximum but never achieved is 44) the current project aims with better traffic management to increase this to around 52 per hour . With a properly equip Airport Control System this could be raised further

    “As observed during time studies in the Manila Control Tower, operations are managed visually and are highly dependent on the radioed information and locations from the pilots. There is no radar or monitor available to accurately pinpoint the location and estimated time of arrival of aircrafts. Instead of relying only on the senses and through work experience, the devised algorithms and procedures for optimization are based on time, which can be directly monitored through the clocks and timers available in the tower”.

    I was shocked at the seemingly total lack of modern equipment available and it says much for the dedication of the controllers that airport operates as well as it does. One hopes the much of the funding is going to be used to update and properly equip the aircraft control systems.

    1 The main terminal one (1) is the largest and oldest and the main cause of congestion other than the poor aircraft control systems.In the over 30 years that I was a frequent user of the terminal (fortunately no longer since terminal 2 opened) it has always been a real chaotic mess and until 15 years or so ago a den of corruption and bribery particularly the harassment of incoming passengers. It is said that the ‘perks’ were so huge that people paid substantial bribes to be employed there. Theft from luggage was also a problem.
    It is pretty clean now

    Terminal 2 is an exclusive Philippine Airlines terminal both domestic and international and not a major cause of congestion

    Terminal 3 is the newest terminal finally opened about 12 years ago it handles flights by international heavy users SIA and CX among others. It works reasonably well but was designed for 4.5 million passengers and is now handling more than double that number. The lounges are decent and the general environment is pleasant.

    Terminal 4 handles all other Domestic traffic it is also old but seemingly not a major cause of congestion

    Ninoy Aquino International Airport currently is experiencing congestion because the demand for operations is greater than the airport’s (mismanaged) capacity. The airport is frankly a mess and what is in train is only a band-aid solution as others have mentioned.

    1 user thanked author for this post.


    The winning bidder for the project was announce yesterday.

    As expected by many the SMC-SAC consortium, made up of San Miguel Holdings, RMM Asian Logistics, RLW Aviation Development and Incheon Airport Corp, beat the other bidders to the much needed public-private partnership (PPP) deal.

    The project requires SMC-SAC to undertake a total upgrade and will be responsible to –

    Increase airport capacity from 35 million passengers annually to 62 million.

    Redesign the antiquated Air Traffic Control systems to expand air traffic movements per hour from 40 to 54

    In addition use private sector expertise for modernization and further capacity expansion.

    Improvement of the airport’s runways.

    Completely refurbish the main terminal 1.

    Upgrade the other terminals and other facilities as needed as part of its responsibilities as the airport’s concessionaire.

    It will pay PHP 30 billion (US$540 million) up front to the government as well as an additional PHP 2 billion p.a.

    SMC-SAC will take over operation of the airport in three to 4 months.

    Chris in Makati

    >> Terminal 2 is an exclusive Philippine Airlines terminal both domestic and international and not a major cause of congestion

    I’m not sure how old that report is, but Terminal 2 is now exclusively a domestic terminal and airlines other than PAL operate from there.

    Whatever they do at NAIA there’s never going to be enough space at that location to expand it sufficiently for future needs. All hopes currently lie with completion of the New Manila International Airport at Bulacan, which will have four runways and is in an area that has the land area needed for expansion. Manila is in a similar position to that which Hong Kong was in during the early 1990s when Kai Tak was bursting at the seams and Chek Lap Kok was seen as the solution on the horizon.

    I know people talk about Clark being an alternative to NAIA, but even with good high-speed transportation links to the capital it would still be a 100 kms journey. Not many major cities anywhere in the world have their main airport that far away.


    I”’m not sure how old that report is, but Terminal 2 is now exclusively a domestic terminal and airlines other than PAL operate from there.”
    As I pointed out up thread

    The report is current as is my explanation up-thread.
    For Bulacan look at about 15 years minimum – currently there is not the political will and with the current seemingly part time administration unfortunately I don’t see that changing any time soon under the current President.

    Chris in Makati

    Work on the New Manila International Airport is underway at the moment. It’s a project of San Miguel and is being paid for by that company. They have a vested interest in getting it completed in the shortest time so as to get a return on their investment. The ground work is already around three quarters complete and construction will start later this year.


    When Is it due for completion please C in M ?


    @chris in Makati, Do they have a design completed yet? A contractor selected for Bulacan Airport. I was informed the civil package for the airside has not been awarded. When the switched to a Design and construct no contractor would take the terminal as there is no design.The costings psf used by San Miguel do not match a terminal and are more the costs you would expect for a warehouse.

    The earliest Bulacan could open would be 2028 to 2030 depending on phasing.

    On NAIA, increasing the slots will not generate 62 mppa, the only way is with a new parallel runway or every flight would have to average over 225 pax.


    I see an even 2030 date as an impossibility –

    Historically in Europe it takes 15 years or more to build an airport plus often 10 years or so in planning.

    It is extremely unlikely that the Philippines would be any faster particularly as there is almost zero planning in place.
    About 2040 would be my estimate – if it goes ahead at all… which I seriously doubt.

    Better to concentrate on making Clark the focus for a large modern International airport ( 1 hour by rail from central Manila and now about 1.20 by the expressway road – I have driven it many times) and rebuilding the current airport to take short-haul and local traffic with possibly reducing the foot print.


    Clark is slowly growing its international network and supporting infrastructure.

    Clark has ambitious plans under the Clark 2024 and beyond banner which is in the public domain. They are looking for investors I believe.

    Chris in Makati

    @TGRW The problem at NAIA is there isn’t enough room to construct a second runway there with sufficient spacing from the existing runway to meet the ICAO minimums for simultaneous operations.

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