ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
Ministry backs new airport plan
HA NOI --The Ministry of Transport the day before yesterday said in a report to the Government that the construction of Long Thanh Airport is vital , answering requests from former aviation manager Le Trong Sanh and former pilot Mai Trong Tuan.
Sanh used to be head of the Tan Son Nhat Airport Management Department and Tuan was former pilot of the Filght Division 919.
Sanh and Tuan had asked the Prime Minister to consider expanding Tan Son Nhat International Airport in HCM City instead of building Long Thanh International Airport in Dong Nai Province.
They explained that the US$8billion investment for Long Thanh Airport was huge in the context of the country's economic condition.
According to the transport ministry's forecast, passengers going through Tan Son would reach 19 million in 2013 and between 20-25 million by 2018-20. Tan Son Nhat Airport would be overloaded after 2020 and the airport could not be upgraded or expanded.
The ministry said that the Long Thanh International Airport construction was approved by the Prime Minister in the aviation transport development scheme to 2020 with a vision to 2030. The ministry's research showed that its location could meet the demands of passenger and transport to HCM City. The Long Thanh Airport area of 5,000 ha is enough to built a new and modern international airport with a capacity of 80-100 million passengers yearly.
The ministry added that the Long Thanh Airport would reach a capacity of 25 million passengers per year by 2020 and help reduce the overload at Tan Son Nhat Airport.
A "waste of money"
In their argument against the building of Long Thanh Airport, Sanh and Tuan said an expanded Tan Son Nhat can handle the rising number of international passengers, and there is no need to spend a huge sum of money.
Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper quoted them as saying that expanding Tan Son Nhat to the north - where a golf course is planned - is feasible.
If the expansion is done, the northern portion would house international terminals and the southern part would handle domestic flights.
Japan Airport Consultants Inc (JAC), the project consultant, has estimated Long Thanh Airport to cost US$7.8 billion, including $730 million for acquiring land and relocating some 1,500 households.
Sanh and Tuan said building a new airport and turning Tan Son Nhat into a domestic airport would be a "big mistake" because of the inconvenience it would cause passengers and cargo transport because of the transiting involved.
"No international passenger would like to take a bus to HCM City's Tan Son Nhat Airport to catch a domestic flight after their international flight lands at Long Thanh Airport," they said.
But in an interview with Tuoi Tre newspaper on Saturday Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Viet Nam Civil Aviation Authority (CAAV), said Sanh and Tuan's suggestion was first made two years ago and has already been considered by the ministry.
"The Minister of Transport has accounted for these issues to the National Assembly deputies.
"They were also explained at a seminar on developing Long Thanh Airport held in Ha Noi in July 2013. Sanh and Tuan were also invited to it but they did not attend."
At the seminar, Nguyen Nguyen Hung, chairman of the Airports Corporation of Viet Nam (ACV), called for speeding up work on the new airport to ease the burden on Tan Son Nhat, saying the latter would be overloaded by 2020 even in the lowest growth scenario.
It takes around 10 years to build an international airport, so the decision to build Long Thanh has come late, he said.
Funds for Long Thanh Airport will be raised from various sources. Its first phase, from 2014 to 2020, will cost an estimated $5.6 billion, with 53 per cent of it coming from the Government and ODA loans and the rest from the private sector.
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