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Building Long Thanh Airport is the best of all available options

Update: March, 24/2015 - 08:48

Transport Minister Dinh La Thang explained to Lao Dong (Labour) why building a new airport instead of expanding the existing Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCM City makes more sense.

Many people have argued that the construction of the Long Thanh Airport in Dong Nai Province is a very expensive proposition when Viet Nam's public debt has already reached $80 billion. They say upgrading the existing six airports in the south will solve the problem of overloading at the Tan Son Nhat airport. How would you respond?

It is projected that from 2017 onwards, the Tan Son Nhat Airport will be overloaded because it is only designed to handle 25 million passengers a year.

There was a plan to increase the airport's capacity to cater to 40-50 million passengers a year during the 2025-2030 period. I don't think this plan is feasible.

The proposal to upgrade the Bien Hoa military airport and turn it into a civilian airport is not feasible either, mainly because it does not have facilities to cater to commercial flights.

Upgrading the Bien Hoa Airport into an international airport to support the Tan Son Nhat Airport also has national security implications. This airport has a strategic mission of protecting the nation's Western airspace, HCM City and our sovereignty over the East Sea.

At present, other airports in the south, like Can Tho, Lien Khuong and Cam Ranh, have already been upgraded in line with regional development. That's why I think they cannot offer much support to the Tan Son Nhat Airport. Their distance from Tan Son Nhat is also a factor that makes the idea impractical.

I share concerns about the project's impact on public debt. However, according to our calculations, the impact on public debt by using State Budget and ODA funds will be very small, particularly in the 2016-2019 period. It is calculated that the biggest impact will be about 0.09 per cent of the GDP by 2020

Through various analysis, we also know that in this project, the Economic Internal Rate of Return (EIRR) will be higher than the social discount rate. This is an indication that the project's capital returns will be high. Further more, payback periods for all project loans are between 30-40 years.

What about the argument that expansion of the Tan Son Nhat Airport can increase its capacity to 80 million passengers/year by 2050, hence there is no need to build the Long Thanh Airport?

Reliable calculations show that if we want to raise the Tan Son Nhat airport's capacity to 40-50 million passengers/year, the only way is to build a new terminal with a capacity of 15-25 million passengers/year. In addition, we would have to construct a new runway which is 1.035 meters away from the present runways' centre, as also supporting facilities and taxiways.

All this means we will need additional 641ha in the three surrounding districts of Tan Binh, Go Vap and Phu Nhuan. In turn, 140,000 households will have to be resettled. About $9.1 billion will be needed for resettlement. Obtaining the consent of 140,000 households, finding a place for them to resettle and paying them compensation – these can prove to be very challenging tasks.

Secondly, the Tan Son Nhat Airport is just 7km from the city centre. So there is no doubt that if its capacity is increased, noise and air pollution will become a big problem for people living close to the airport, and there will be many other issues, including congestion at the airport entrance gates.

The Ministry of Transport and I myself have discussed and looked at various options, and we think the best one is to build the Long Thanh Airport. — VNS

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