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Cablegate: Troubled Manila Airport Terminal May Open Soon

O 140932Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 1286
INFO DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHDC IMMEDIATE
ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE
AMEMBASSY SEOUL
AMEMBASSY BEIJING
AMEMBASSY CANBERRA

UNCLAS MANILA 001675


STATE FOR EAP/MTS
TRANSPORTATION FOR FAA
SINGAPORE AND TOKYO FOR FAA

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ETRD BEXP RP
SUBJECT: TROUBLED MANILA AIRPORT TERMINAL MAY OPEN SOON

REF: Manila 03743


1. Summary: In June, Philippine President Arroyo ordered that the
long-delayed Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3)
open for domestic commercial flights before the end of July and
created a task force to ensure the opening. Two Philippine airlines
are already committed to start domestic operations there in the next
few weeks. However, further legal challenges may again block the
opening or force a re-closing. End summary

2. Philippine government officials have announced that the NAIA-3,
mothballed for years due to legal controversies, will begin handling
commercial domestic flights before the end of July. National
Airport officials told us that Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines
Express both plan to start operations there before the end of July.
We confirmed this information with the airlines. A Cebu Pacific
executiveQold us the company expects to move all of its NAIA
domestic flights to Terminal 3 before the end of August, and hopes
to consolidate its international flights there within six months.
However, an executive at Philippine Airlines predicted that Terminal
3 will face legal and technical challenges and could close again
soon after it opens.

Legal obstacles
---------------

3. The Philippine Supreme Court ruled that the operation of NAIA-3
could start only after the payment of just compensation to the
consortium that built the terminal. Government officials interpret
this ruling to mean that they can start operations of the terminal
as long as they do not perform 'acts of ownership', which they
define as leasing the terminal concessions.

Technical evaluation
--------------------

4. An attempt to open the terminal in 2007 failed after a part of a
ceiling collapsed and weakened the terminal beams. A consulting
firm, hired by Manila International Airport Authority (TCGI
Engineers) reported that the terminal is structurally defective and
could only withstand a low-intensity earthquake. Another firm that
assessed the terminal (The Association of Structural Engineers of
the Philippines) reported that the structural defects only affect
less then 10 percent of the terminal. They recommended that the
safe portions of the terminal open while repairs are made to the
other portions.


KENNEY#

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