By Efleda P. Campos
IN February 2018, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA) will open Terminal 2 for air passengers coming to and leaving Cebu, tripling the airport’s capacity of processing air travelers from the current 7 million a year.
MCIA’s Terminal 1, now being renovated, was built to handle 4.5 million per annum.
“When Phase 1 of Terminal 2 opens two years from now, we’ll be able to accommodate over 12.5 million passengers per year, three times our current capacity,” said Andrew Aquaah-Harrison, chief executive adviser of GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corp. (GMCAC), operator and manager of the MCIA.
The company outbid the competition with its P14.404-billion offer to renovate Terminal 1 and build Terminal 2 from the ground up. It has set P17.5 billion to construct Terminal 2.
As of the third quarter last year, GMCAC has spent more than $35 million (P1.645 billion at $1=P47) for the renovation of Terminal 1, Aquaah-Harrison said.
Terminal 1 has upgraded many of its facilities, making it the most modern, state-of-the-art airport in the country at the moment.
Its signs are in bold yellow on black background, scientifically proven to be the most visible signage even for the sight-impaired, he said.
There are now four x-rays for hand baggage, 26 automated teller machines, more flight-information displays, self-check-in kiosks and more check-in counters. Washrooms have been renovated for the convenience of children, persons with disabilities and older people.
Retail shops and restaurants, lounge areas with bright seats are conveniently located throughout the airport.
The MCIA is being hailed as “a model of the PPP [Public-Private Partnership] process,” Aquaah-Harrison said. This year the Partnership Finance International, an institution that recognizes corporate and individual successes in the global financial industry, proclaimed the MCIA one of the world’s most outstanding PPP projects in 2015.
“The airport will be a key player in boosting the region’s growth,” said Louie Ferrer, president of GMCAC. “During the construction phase of Terminal 2 and the ongoing rehabilitation of Terminal 1, 3,000 jobs will be created.”
“The airport will become ‘The Gateway to the Visayas and Mindanao,” Aquaah-Harrison said. “It will definitely provide domestic and international connectivity to the area.”
The MCIA, he said, is one hour away from guests’ destination and will facilitate both the outflow and inflow of the burgeoning number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the country’s two main islands in the south.
“Right now, 34 percent of the country’s OFWs come from the Visayas and Mindanao, yet, less than 5 percent fly out of Cebu,” he said. “Our goal is to service direct traffic to and from the US, Middle East and Europe.” He said there are 10 overseas-employment companies operating in Cebu. But many prospective OFWs from the Visayas and Mindanao still go to Manila to have their papers processed and eventually fly out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
“Another reason for this is we still do not have direct flights to their final work destinations overseas,” he said.
At present, the company is looking at two sites in Cebu where they plan to set up 60 dormitories for men and another 60 for women where prospective OFWs can work on their papers locally.
In 2015 more airlines launched direct flights from Cebu to foreign destinations: PAL to Osaka, Air Asia to Kota Kinabalu, and Cebu Pacific to Narita.
This year PAL has flown to Los Angeles from the MCIA and Emirates Air to Dubai.
At present, 220 in/out daily flights are launched from Cebu. When Terminal 2 becomes operational, there will be at least 350, Aquaah-Harrison said.
Aquaah-Harrison said his company will assess the airport’s performance every 10 years and return the MCIA’s assets to the government after managing it for 25 years.
Image credits: Darlene Berou