Abandoning the largest U.S. Air Force Base outside of the continental United States back in 1991 was not an easy task for America. Given the countless industrial/commercial buildings, residential quarters, officers homes, manicured golf courses, road network, two, huge 3.2-kilometer parallel runways capable of landing the space shuttle and over 100 years of U.S. occupation, it quite-possibly would have been easier to pull all the teeth of the resident Generals on-base than to abandon all that Clark Air Base had become to the U.S. Military. This decision to evacuate was not made unilaterally though. Mt Pinatubo had a say in the matter spewing a thick blanket of ash throughout the base.
The Philippine Senate also had its input regarding the 100 year U.S. occupation, and, during September 1991, convinced America to turn its back on billions of dollars of infrastructure when they rejected the ratification of the RP-US Military Bases Agreement. Numerous reasons were given for the rejection of this treaty. This was a destructive blow to the Aquino administration, which was very-strongly in favor of maintaining the treaty and the presence of the U.S. Military with its economic benefit to the country. She even called for a referendum by the Filipino people that was later determined as unconstitutional.
Several years later, the former US Air Force Military Airlift Wing is now experiencing some major and exciting transformational processes, all without the presence or assistance of a super power. Since 1996, as a subsidiary of the Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the runways, airport buildings, infrastructure and surrounding areas of this former military installation is managed by and in the capable-hands of the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC).
From the beginning of the transformation, CIAC has provided the organizational and management arm for the daunting job of transforming a former military airfield into a world-class international airport and logistics hub. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, in recognition of her father and former president of the Philippines, renamed the facility, Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA). Today it stands in honor to her father’s past administration and as a bright hope to current and future generations as a newly revitalized Philippine gateway, providing sustained commercial, industrial and tourism growth in the face of a new world economy.
From humble beginnings in 2003 of only 7,880 international passengers, to over half a million passengers making their way through DMIA in 2007, this airport is an overwhelming success story in all of Asian airport history. As the long-term plans for this facility to be the premier gateway of the Philippines progress, projected estimates range from 20 million to 40 million passengers passing-through the new DMIA annually at fruition of the project.
On October 29, 2003, Asiana Airlines had the honor to be the first airline to established international flights in and out of Clark. These flights brought tourists and businessmen to and from Incheon, South Korea. This initiated a new wave of international flights that has blossomed-forth ever since. Some of the international destinations currently being serviced from DMIA include Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, Macau, China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Seoul Korea. Cebu, Caticlan are the current domestic travel offerings at Clark Airport.
South Korean tourists began to discover the Philippines, and specifically, Clark and Subic Bay in ever-growing numbers. In fact, according to the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT), today they constitute the leading group of tourist by nationality in the Philippines. According to the DOT, the number of business and pleasure travelers is on the rise in the Philippines with South Korean leading the pack. For the entire country in 2006, South Korea lead the arrival numbers reaching 572,133 while the U.S. was second with 567,355 and then Japan with 421,808. For the following year, 2007, South Korea once again lead the arrival numbers reaching 653,310, a 14.2% increase, while the U.S. was second with 578,983, a 2% increase and Japan with 395,012, a 6.4% decrease.
The fastest growing arrivals percentage-wise between 2006 and 2007 were from China and Malaysia. These countries posted arrival increases of 18.0% and 23.3% respectively. Chinas arrivals in the Philippines in 2007 were at 157,601 while Malaysia’s were 65,695. Growth is one thing, but maintaining quality and performance in the face of tremendous growth is an accomplishment worth taking note. Two consecutive world-class awards from two different organizations speak volumes of an organization’s efforts. In 2006 DMIA was awarded the “Low Cost Airport of the Year award from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).
Then, in 2007, DMIA was awarded the prestigious “Airport of the Year” award by Frost and Sullivan, at the Asia Pacific Aerospace and Defense Awards Banquet in Singapore. Formulated in 1961, Frost and Sullivan maintain over 26 offices worldwide, and is a major, respected global research company. The company fields a staff of over 1,500 employees, with job titles ranging from economists, market researchers and technology analysts. These analysts and researchers are focused on the industries of aerospace, defense, energy, transportation, environmental-issues, technology, chemicals, food, power systems and more. It looks like CIAC is entirely-focused and performing above and beyond the call of duty in their determination to witness the realization of DMIA becoming the premier gateway of the Philippines.
Exciting plans abound for the long-term prospectus of the Clark Freeport and DMIA. After 15 years of conflict and negotiations with the indigenous Aeta people of the region, CDC has acquired 10,000 hectares of new expansion land area. CDC now has a total of almost 28,000 hectares of contiguous, raw land to work with and put to productive use over the next couple of decades. The Clark governing body has designating a new, modern, 21st Century city to be built from scratch in the combined areas comprising existing and new land acquisitions in and around the Clark Freeport. Aeropolis is the named assigned this modern, Aviation-focused, master-planned, multi-use mega-city/mega-region.
CDC already has in a master-plan set-aside for Aeropolis comprised of 4,400 hectare main-zone and a 27,600 hectare sub-zone centered on an aviation-driven urban center that will be ideally suitable to high-end IT, airport-industries, logistics-related enterprises, agro-industries and tourism. This type of long-term, far-sighted planning translates to exponential airport-related arrivals/departures and the ongoing future success of the Clark Airport as a major player in the world economy for many decades to come.
Step 1 – Entry Check
* Here is where a pax join the first queue – the airport entrance queue. * Before a pax can enter the building they must show both of their passport and airline ticket, so they must have them ready. * Now is a good time to remove metal objects from their pockets or purse and place them in their hand carried luggage that will be x-rayed. These items include watches, pens, cell phones, and coins – anything that will trigger the metal detector. Doing this early will save delays later. * Once they have shown their passport and ticket they will have to place their entire luggage on the x-ray conveyor belt before walking through the metal detector.
Step 2 – Airline Check-in
* If all goes well they can collect their luggage and proceed to their airline check-in counter. * They should expect huge queues so they must get there early. * While waiting in the check-in queue they must prepared to have their baggage sniff tested for explosives. * After checking in and getting their boarding pass they can now proceed to the departure area – but their queuing is not yet over.
Step 3 – Pay Departure Tax/ Terminal Fee
* Before entering the departure area they must show their passport and boarding pass. Once cleared they can now go to the counter where they will pay their departure tax and terminal fee. This terminal fee is currently 150 pesos for domestic and 450 pesos for international per passenger. * At the counter they must give the counter operator their boarding pass and the money. She will return their boarding pass along with a receipt.
Step 4 – Immigration Clearance
* The next step is Immigration Clearance. They must present their passport and boarding pass. Step 5 – Security Check * The next queue is at the security check. Once again pax must make sure to have taken all metal objects out of their pockets or purse. They can either place those in their hand carry bag or in a plastic tray that the security people will provide. * Make sure they adhere to the currency export limits for both Philippine pesos and foreign currencies. * After they have gone through the metal detector they can collect their bags and the tray with their personal effects, and then they can proceed into the departure area.
Step 6 – Departure Gate Check
* If they think they have stood in the last queue they may be disappointed. Depending on their airline there may be one more security check. This will be as they enter the departure gate area. This check is just a routine and quick check of they and their hand carried bag.
Step 7 – Passport Boarding Check
* Again, depending on the airline, they may have to show both their boarding card and their passport as they board the aircraft. If so, they must be ready and have their passport open at the photo page.
Step 1 – Quarantine/ Immigration Procedures
* Pax must have their passport ready to complete quarantine and immigration procedures. Foreign travelers will need to fill out an arrival card.
Step 2 – Baggage Claim
* They must check the information board for the name of their airline and flight no. and collect their baggage from the appropriate carousel. If they cannot find their baggage, they must show their baggage claim tag to the airline service representative and ask for assistance.
Step 3 – Customs Inspection
* Pax must take their baggage and proceed to Customs Inspection. If they have items to declare complete the necessary procedures at the appropriate counter.
Step 4 – To the Arrivals Lobby / Meet Greet
* They will proceed to the arrivals lobby which is the convenient place to meet friends and families.
My 50 Days of Experience
I have learned a lot in my 50 days of experience at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport especially with the Airport Operation Department staff. I don’t even knew the existence of the airport operation before. But now after being a part of this department just even for a while I have realized the importance and the role of it. Airport Operation Department has a big role in running an airport. It is like the main ingredient in a recipe and the heart of a body system.
Without it an airport cannot be called an airport terminal because they are the one who keep safety and security excellence as the first priority, they develop a better airport for the future by taking advantage of emerging market opportunities, they operate an efficient airport dedicated to exceptional customer service, they broaden and increase the airport’s revenue base to ensure on-going viability, and they maintain strong relationships with “neighbors”, communities, and industries. Being a part of it is not really easy because it is too broad. But thanks to our leaders who made us understand our role and made us feel that we are really a part of the Airport Operation Department even though we are just OJTs.