Former U.S. Airbase in Philippines to Become Major International Airport

MANILA -- Philippine airport authorities said Saturday they will develop a former US airbase north of Manila into a major international gateway at the cost of at least two billion pesos (35.6 million dollars).

The former Clark airbase will be made into an international airport to attract low-cost airlines who wish to serve the northern Philippines, the Manila International Airport Authority said in a statement.

Clark, located about 60 kilometers (37.2 miles) north of Manila, will cater to tourists and businessmen and will focus on serving the many Filipino workers going to and from the Middle East, the airport authority said.

Airport authority general manager Alfonso Cusi met with Clark airport head Adelberto Yap to forge the plans for expanding Clark with the first phase of development taking at least two years and costing about two billion pesos.

Cusi said in the statement that the project would be financed by internally generated funds and "concerned agencies" although he did not give details.

The development of Clark would be in line with President Gloria Arroyo's plans to decongest the Philippine capital of Manila which houses the country's main international airport, the authority added.

The sprawling Clark Airbase, once one of the largest overseas US airbases, was abandoned by US forces in 1991 after the eruption of nearby Pinatubo volcano damaged its facilities.

The Philippine government has cleared up Clark and turned it into a commercial airport and light industrial zone but despite its huge runways, it has largely been limited to handling domestic and charter flights.