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The proposal of PAL president Ramon Ang for Philippine Airlines to build its own airport only "15 minutes away from Edsa-Ayala" has sparked a bold counter-proposal from his neighboring contractor-developer in the reclaimed stretch of land along Roxas Boulevard.
A plan for a two-runway airport parallel to the Sangley airport in Cavite, to rise on reclaimed land on the peninsula facing Corregidor island, has been resurrected by Delfin Wenceslao Jr., chairman of the construction firm DM Wenceslao and Associates.
DM Wenceslao is part of the international R-1 Consortium that reclaimed the 204-hectare Aseana Business Park between the Redemptorist Channel, parallel to the Mall of Asia, and the Uniwide mall.
The main advantages of the Sangley location, according to Wenceslao, is that not only would it protect the existing marshland and bird sanctuary along the Coastal Road, it could be connected to Makati through the skyway and/or light rail transit via a 14-kilometer coastway.
The coastway-and-light rail combine, he added, is a lot cheaper than building a high-speed train link between Manila and Clark, the planned main gateway to replace Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
More important for developers like Ayala, SM, Robinsons, Federal Land and Vista Land, according to Wenceslao, the Sangley location would free up the height restrictions now imposed along The Fort, Ortigas, parts of Makati and around the Mall of Asia.
The technical proposal for the Sangley site has been with the Philippine Reclamation Authority for over two years, solicited by the past PRA board.
Wenceslao said he was unaware where Ang wanted to locate the PAL airport, even though he sits on the boards of listed companies Philweb and Alphaland along with Ang. The speculation is that Ang is looking to revive the 750-hectare Cyber Bay reclamation project, past the Uniwide mall.
Ang happens to also be the chairman of the listed Cyber Bay real estate company. Moreover, Cyber Bay's president, lawyer Peter Suchianco, is the proponent of a Paranaque-Las Pinas-Bacoor reclamation project that is being opposed by former Las Pinas Representative Cynthia Villar, in alliance with left-wing and environmental groups.
As to Sangley, it was incidentally the same site picked by infrastructure magnate Gordon Wu of Hong Kong's Hopewell Holdings during the Cory Aquino presidency.
But Wu's proposal only called for lengthening the Sangley runway, and then connecting the airport from the Cavite City peninsula across the bay to Roxas Boulevard via an underwater tunnel.
Unfortunately, the present Sangley size of 138 hectares -- a former US Navy facility whose 2,400-meter runway was extensively used during the Vietnam War -- has grown too small for an international terminal, which needs at least 500 hectares for a single-runway airport.
Depending on the size of the terminal and related aviation buildings, the proposed two-runway Sangley airport could be built on 1,000 to 1,200 hectares of reclaimed land, Wenceslao said.
And with the combined light rail-coastway link, owners of general aviation aircraft could no longer use road traffic congestion to object to their transfer to Sangley from the Ninoy Aquino airport, he added.
The main drawback for this proposal? The cost of the reclamation. The Hong Kong airport, built on two islands and reclaimed land, cost $20 billion in 1998.
"The question now is, will Sangley be financially viable? That is what we are trying to find out,' Wenceslao said.
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