The construction of a new international airport near Ho Chi Minh City should begin no later than 2019, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said on Saturday.
The Long Thanh International Airport, to be built in the southern province of Dong Nai, had been scheduled for construction beginning in 2021 and is expected to help share the load with overcrowded Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City.
The plan to build the new airport, 50km from Tan Son Nhat, wasratified by Vietnam’s lawmaking National Assembly in 2015, with an estimated cost of some VND336.63 trillion (US$16.03 billion) and a planned groundbreaking in 2021.
However construction should start earlier, Deputy PM Dung said as he met with Dong Nai authorities to discuss plans for the megaproject on the weekend.
Vice Chairman of Dong Nai Province People’s Committee Tran Van Vinh said during the meeting that once completed, Long Thanh airport would bring major socioeconomic benefits to Dong Nai, the southern economic region, as well as the country as a whole.
Therefore, Vinh said, the province had taken the initiative to draft plans for special mechanisms in site clearance, compensation, resettlement, and capital mobilization policies to speed up the project’s progress in line with directives from the National Assembly.
According to Vinh, the airport megaproject will affect the lives and income of around 4,730 households in the area, amounting to 15,000 residents, alongside a number of organizations, businesses, and religious institutions.
The implementation of special mechanisms, Vinh explained, will secure the welfare of affected citizens through accelerated construction of resettlement homes, compensation procedures, and site clearance.
Meanwhile, a representative from the country’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment noted that the simultaneous recovery of land, while economically beneficial, could result wasted land resources while construction is not underway.
Public evaluation indispensable
The current maximum capacity of Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City is 25 million annual passengers, which can only be increased to 40 million at the most through expansion of the current airport, according to Le Manh Hung, director general at the Airport Corporation of Vietnam (ACV).
Meanwhile, Hung said, the airport is expected to welcome 40 million passengers annually by 2018, making the completion of Long Thanh Airport more urgent.
According to Hung, ACV had so far received 14 airport design submissions, which would be put up for evaluation on August 18.
In response to Hung’s proposal that the designs be allowed to bypass public evaluation due to their highly professional characteristic, Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung requested that the designs be made available for public evaluation, given the significance of the project.
“Local residents have been ready for ten years,” deputy head of the Government Office Nguyen Cao Luc said, “We cannot hesitate any longer”.
“The project must begin no later than 2019,” Trinh Dinh Dung demanded, asking Dong Nai’s Provincial authorities to make their formal requests to the Government Office for approval.
Overloaded Tan Son Nhat Airport
According to representatives from Tan Son Nhat International Airport (TIA), the airport has been in constant state of congestion. In only one week from June 16-22, the airport served an average of 630 flights a day, with the possibility of as many as 750 daily flights during the peak summer season, according to TIA.
The airport has seen its flight traffic increase by 21.84 percent in the first half of 2016 compared to the same period last year, serving a total of 15.8 million passengers so far this year.
While waiting for Long Thanh Airport to be completed, the Vietnamese Ministry of Transport has demanded that every possible measure to ease the load on TIA be taken, including transferring military and housing land to expand the current airport.