Philippines mulls sale of Manila's Ninoy Aquino airport

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The Philippines' Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) is mulling over a proposal to sell Manila's Ninoy Aquino International airport (NAIA).

The sale could raise up to $2.5 billion, which will help to pay for a new international gateway at Clark International airport, the department said in a statement. It did not provide details on how a sale could raise that amount.

The new airport will meet the country's long-term needs and boost its tourism industry, it added.

This is because the 30-year-old NAIA has reached its saturation point with little room for expansion. The total capacity of the four terminals is 32 million a year, and throughput is expected to reach 30 million in 2011.

While several options for upgrading the airport have been studied, including the possibility of reclaiming the land around it, that option appears to be "unreasonable" because of a shortage of space, added the DoTC.

"With the huge cost involved in the expansion plan, the less expensive Clark airport is a better option," said the department.

"All of these are just plans and indicative, and will not happen overnight or within one to three years," said its secretary Manuel Roxas.

Both airports can be kept operational should there be strong growth, but the likelihood is that NAIA will be sold to pay for Clark airport, he added.

Connectivity from Clark to central Manila has been an issue, but that should be resolved with a new rail project, said the department.

Referring to a recent survey that listed NAIA as one of the worst airports in the world, Roxas said: "There are, however, some limitations on how much refurbishment and 'botox' that the government can do. That's why we are advocating Clark as the airport of the future."