SBMA setting up Subic airport for international flights

In Photo: Five passenger planes of the Far Eastern Air Transport in Taiwan are seen parked at the SBIA apron in this file photo, as they take shelter from Typhoon Sepat on August 18, 2007.

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Hoping to regain Subic’s lost glory as a major port for commercial airlines, the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is now setting up a multimillion rehabilitation program to procure various landing instruments and communications systems for the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA).

SBMA Chairman and Administrator Wilma T. Eisma said the agency started refurbishing the SBIA with a new P51-million Automated Weather Observation System (Awos), which provides continuous, real-time information on weather conditions.

“The Awos is already installed and operational, which is why Subic is now ready to accommodate planes because its communications and night-time capability are fully functioning,” Eisma said.

She added that the capability of the Subic airport was tested just recently when it landed flights from Bangkok that were diverted from Clark Airport.

Built in 1951 as the US Navy’s Naval Air Station Cubi Point, Subic airport was converted into a commercial airport when SBMA took over the former American base in 1992. Retrofitted with a $12.6-million passenger terminal, it formally opened in 1996 as the SBIA, and later became the Asia One hub of the American cargo giant Federal Express.

The SBIA is said to have topped the 100,000 passenger count staring 1997 and in 1998 handled around 1,000 international and 6,000 domestic flights. Passenger record, however, dwindled in the following years until it also lost its major client when FedEx moved its hub to China in 2009.

The government lately took a second look at the Subic airport, as it sought to address the long-standing congestion problem at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Eisma said the government has now allocated some P502 million for various landing instruments and communications systems, with funds from the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM-PS).

She said the DBM-PS will also bid out the component projects that will include air-ground VHF radio communication system, area navigation design, Doppler very high frequency omni-directional range for homing aircraft, airfield ground lightings, movement area ground signages, airport rescue and firefighting vehicles, air passenger boarding bridges, and automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast equipment.

Eisma added that some P232 million worth of equipment will also be needed for the airport. These include x-ray machines, closed-circuit television, ambulance, sweeper truck, flight information display system, fire detection and alarm system, aerial platform, and pickup trucks and passenger vans.

According to SBIA Manager Zharrex Santos, the Subic airfield can accommodate almost all types of modern aircraft at more than 20 movements per hour because of its 2,744-meter runway with effective width of 45 meters.

It also has ramps and aprons that could take in 24 wide-body aircraft for parking at any given time, while two passenger tubes at the terminal building can process 700 passengers per hour, Santos said.

The Subic airport proved its capability as a major diversion airport in December 1995, when an aircraft got stuck at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport  and international flights were diverted here. This was repeated in August 2008 when it sheltered 37 various aircraft, 19 of which were passenger planes from Taiwan, because of Typhoon Sepat.

Eisma said that aside from the rehabilitation program, the SBMA is also arranging for other commercial operations at the Subic airport, including maintenance repairs for Gulf Stream, flying school for the Philippine Airlines, Subic-Macau-Subic flights for Royal Air, as well as for China Eastern Airlines.


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Henry E. Empeño took up A.B. Journalism at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City, but plunged headlong into actual newspaper work without graduating from college.


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