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Sangley, Cavite: Ready for Takeoff?

) Allan Tripon |

As part of the administration’s plan to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the government is building new airports and rehabilitating old ones around the country. One of these new airports is the proposed ₱486 million Sangley Point Airport in Cavite City — a project which would serve as an important catalyst for the development of the economy and real estate market in the area.

A Brief History of Sangley Point, Cavite
Cavite City is a 1,200 hectare (ha) peninsula located in between two large bodies of water at both sides, with the Manila Bay to its west and the Bacoor Bay and Canacao Bay to its east. The city’s unique geography is the main reason why Chinese merchants, long before the arrival of the Spanish, saw Cavite as an ideal place to dock their ships and set up shop as they traded goods across the Manila Bay. In fact, the Chinese even called the place lĭxiăng (理想), which means ideal. Through time, the locals adopted the term and, today, the port area of Cavite City is called Sangley.

The Spanish, upon their arrival in and eventual colonization of the Philippines in the mid 1500s, saw an even greater potential for the Sangley peninsula. They believed that the area could play a major role for the global spice trade across the Pacific. As such, the Spanish built a major shipyard in Sangley Point in the late 1560s in order to facilitate trade. This brand new port paved the way for the Manila to Acapulco Galleon trade (a trade route which connected Mexico to China), which lasted over three centuries until the Spanish left Sangley Point in 1898 after losing the Battle of Manila Bay against the United States.

Seeing the huge potential of Sangley Point as a strategically located military and naval base in the Pacific, the Americans immediately took over the abandoned port, upon defeating the Spanish in the Battle of Manila Bay of 1898. For the next 70 years, the US Naval Station Sangley Point — which housed over 35,000 to 40,000 US soldiers — served as an important catalyst for the economic growth of Cavite City. According to stories by locals, “the Americans brought the city to life” as businesses which catered to the Americans popped out left and right (SEE: Sangley airport to spur economic growth, The Philippine Daily Inquirer). This rapid growth continued until the departure of the American soldiers in 1971.

Unfortunately for the residents of Cavite City — the economic boom that the US naval base ushered in immediately disappeared, just as soon as the Americans left Sangley in 1971. Businesses closed down, stores went out of business, development stopped, and the city became a ghost town. As such, Cavite City has stagnated and has been left behind, in terms of development, by its more affluent neighboring cities and towns (such as Kawit and Rosario). In fact, the city is now solely dependent on its annual internal revenue allotment from the National Government worth just ₱400 million ($7 million).

The Proposed ₱486 Million Sangley Airport
Luckily for Cavite City, there is a ₱486 million project in the pipeline in order to build an airport in Sangley Point. The funds will be spent on the construction and purchase of two new aircraft hangars, maintenance equipment, and a small passenger terminal building. The project will be built on a 3.6 hectare piece of land, which used to be occupied by the US naval base in Sangley Point (SEE: Duterte’s rush job: P486 M Sangley Airport, The Philippine Daily Inquirer). The government hopes that the Sangley Airport would help alleviate the congestion in the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), which already caters to 45 million passengers per year.

Currently, the construction of the airport is already 53% completed. However, President Duterte and is not happy with the progress and wants the airport finished as soon as possible. As such, Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Art Tugade has ordered that Sangley’s construction be completed by September of this year (SEE: Tugade wants Sangley Airport construction done by September 2019, Rappler). Upon its completion, Sangley Point will cater to cargo flights, private charter flights, and even some domestic flights.

Sangley Airport: A Catalyst for Cavite City’s Growth?
Cavite city’s past has shown that whenever Sangley Point was fully utilized — whether as a naval base or a trading port, the economic boom followed. As such, history suggests that the Sangley Point Airport will serve as a much needed and long overdue catalyst for Cavite City’s economic growth. There are three main ways in which the completion of the Sangley Airport will benefit the local economy of Cavite City.

The first would be the airport’s effect on local government revenues. The city government of Cavite City can levy fees and taxes on the aircraft taking off from and landing on Sangley — thereby supplementing the amount it receives from the National Government coffers. In addition, property values should increase upon completion of the airport, which in turn would increase the amount of real property taxes which the government can collect. The additional revenues from these collections could be used for various local government projects such as infrastructure construction and other social projects.

The second would be the airport’s effect on the city’s infrastructure. In addition to the airport, the government is planning to construct new roads and terminals in order to connect Sangley with Manila. These additional projects would significantly reduce the travel time from Manila to Cavite.

Finally, the new airport would definitely boost the economic activity in the area, similar to how the US naval bases created an economic boom in Cavite City during the 1900s. New business would open, stores would again pop up left and right, and development would get back on track.

The combination of the improved infrastructure and economic activity in Cavite City would do wonders for the value of land and property in the area. As such, now is probably a good time to invest in real estate in Cavite.