SBMA chair wants to privatize Subic Airport

Posted 5 days ago

By Jonas Reyes

Subic Bay Freeport – Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) chair Atty. Wilma Eisma wants to privatize the management of the Subic Bay International Airport (SBIA), saying that the privatization of the management of the area is the best course of action.

Eisma, in an interview, said that she wants to make SBIA “a business aviation airport, general aviation, MRO (maintenance, repair and overhaul), and (ready for) charter flights.” She added that passenger aviation should be focused in Clark Airport and not here.

“We can get spillover from neighboring airports like Clark, but I would rather court general aviation and business aviation heavily and have a niche for them to attract tourists with curated experiences,” Eisma added.

She said that she hopes to get a chunk of general and business aviation since the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is focusing more on passenger aviation.

On January 25th, the Asian Business Aviation Association (AsBAA) led by President Max Motschmann made an ocular inspection of the SBIA to determine the business potential of the area. Eisma told the group that the privatization of the SBIA is under the guidance of the US Trade Development Agency.

She said that the aim is to complete the study this year and start the privatization by next year, ensuring that the privatization is well within the term of President Duterte.

The SBIA was formally opened on September 30, 1996. The US$12.6-million passenger terminal built by Summa Kumagai, Inc. (a joint Filipino-Japanese venture) was inaugurated on November 4, 1996, in time for the 4th APEC Leaders’ Summit.

Between the years 1992 to 1995, SBIA welcomed a total of around 100,000 commercial passengers. The airport was expected to handle 110,000 passengers in 1996. In 1997, SBIA topped the 100,000 annual passenger count. For the year 1998, the airport handled a total of around 1,000 international and 6,000 domestic flights, and almost 100,000 inbound and outbound passengers.

By 2007, the number of recorded passengers had dropped to 17,648, but due to the presence of the FedEx AsiaOne Hub the airport still handled 115,108 flights.

The FedEx hub lasted until February, 2009, when all operations were moved to Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, China. Due to this departure, as well as the planned expansion of nearby Clark International Airport, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Administrator and CEO Armand C. Arreza expressed interest in closing Subic Bay International Airport in favor of converting the area to a logistics hub in January, 2010.

In December, 2010, Guam-based Aviation Concepts, Inc. set up fixed-based operations at the airport, refurbishing a 100,000 square foot hangar to international standards, with the aim of eventually establishing a full-service aviation center.

In 2016, the airport began to once again be used for daily commercial passenger flights, with Air Juan flying their nine-seater amphibious aircraft to and from their private seaplane base in Manila South Harbor, located north of the CCP Complex.

Source: Manila Bulletin

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