The Clark International Airport expects to return to normal operations by Friday after it was forced to shut down due to a strong earthquake that struck Luzon.
Jaime Melo, chief executive officer of the Clark airport, said they expect to catch up with delayed flights which were cancelled since Monday afternoon, as the passenger terminal was damaged by the magnitude 6.1 quake.
“‘Yung accommodation of excess passengers, today lang ‘yan. By tomorrow, back to normal na,” Melo told CNN Philippines’ The Source.
A portion of the airport ceiling collapsed as the ground shook, injuring seven persons. The quake also damaged over 1,000 square meters of the six-year-old structure, forcing airlines to cancel flights going to and from Clark until Wednesday, or two days after the earthquake.
Melo said up to 36,000 people were affected by the airport shutdown, or about 11,000 passengers each day of the shutdown.
Clark airport reopened for partial operations Wednesday afternoon, starting with six airlines servicing eight international routes and three domestic destinations, according to the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.
Full operations resumed Thursday after temporary repairs were made to damaged structures. Melo said that the check-in counters were the worst hit by the tremor.
“The repairs are already done. It’s temporary. The final repairs, we will have to look for the best contractor to provide for the government,” he added.
The airport official also apologized for the flight delays, and said that they provided bus fares and other contingencies for passengers who needed to leave Pampanga.
The province was hit hardest by the quake although the epicenter was in Castillejos, Zambales. Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology Director Renato Solidum, Jr. explained that Pampanga felt stronger shaking due to its soft soil which is covered by lahar deposits that trace back to the 1991 eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
Officials of the Clark airport said they would investigate the agreement with E.M. Cuerpo Incorporated, the contractor of the old terminal, amid allegations that the company used substandard materials when it built the structure six years ago.
Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said repairs would cost the government about ₱30 to 50 million for the repairs, although Melo said the cost would be shouldered by the airport operator for now.
The Clark airport is being eyed as the alternative gateway to Metro Manila, as authorities look to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.