Amid growing concern that a golf course has effectively prevented the overloaded Tan Son Nhat International Airport from being expanded, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has requested an urgent study be conducted to add a new runway to Vietnam’s busiest airport.
Tan Son Nhat currently has two runways, possibly not enough for an airport that receives 32.5 million passengers per year, well in excess of its design capacity of 25 million.
Lying just north of the Ho Chi Minh City airdrome is a 157-hectare complex, featuring a sweeping golf course, a luxurious building and wedding-convention center.
A number of petitions and complaints to have the license to the land that is home to the golf course revoked, allowing more space for Tan Son Nhat, have gone unanswered.
PM Phuc has considered all of the recent complaints, including a special feature by Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, and has decided that the possibility of building another runway must be considered.
“The prime minister has concluded that a feasibility study must be done urgently on runway No.3 at Tan Son Nhat,” Minister Mai Tien Dung, a government spokesperson, told reporters on Monday.
“An independent foreign unit may be hired to ensure the feasibility study will be properly conducted.”
Dung added that PM Phuc had also tasked the Ministry of Transport with overseeing the study.
“The study must be done economically, effectively and rapidly,” Minister Dung said, citing the premier’s request.
“Results of the field study and evaluation should be reported to the prime minister within the next six months.”
The government spokesperson said he could not immediately comment on how long the runway would run, and in which direction it would be built.
“The prime minister has requested that relevant agencies come up with the most feasible and appropriate proposal for the new runway.”
Golf construction activities ceased
Inaugurated in August 2015, the 36-hole Tan Son Nhat Golf Course was developed by Vietnam’s Long Bien JSC and designed by Nelson & Haworth Golf Course Architects, one of the world’s leading golf course designers.
One of the development’s four courses lies only one row of trees away from one runway of Tan Son Nhat.
According to the project plan approved in 2011, the 157-hectare complex will also house other facilities including a luxury apartment area, villas and a school.
In his latest request, PM Phuc tasked the Ministry of National Defense with ceasing construction on all of those facilities, pending further conclusion from consultants and scientists.
Minister of Transport Truong Quang Nghia last week said that it was infeasible to expand the Tan Son Nhat northward, or to the current position of the golf course, citing enormous site clearance and compensation costs, possible noise pollution and “other issues.”
The minister suggested that focus be put on the construction of Long Thanh International Airport in nearby Dong Nai Province, a $15.03 billion project ratified by the lawmaking National Assembly in 2015.
The government spokesperson, Dung, also told reporters on Monday that the possible enlargement of Tan Son Nhat has no impact on the Long Thanh project.
“Works on the Long Thanh project are underway as scheduled,” he said.
“Once the Long Thanh airport is commissioned, Tan Son Nhat will remain operational as normal.”