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Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A modified satellite image shows the proposed site of Phnom Penh’s new airport, with the location of the project outlined in red on the inset map. Post Media

Government approves plan to relocate Phnom Penh’s airport

The government has signed off on a proposal to build a new airport to serve Phnom Penh and has earmarked land in Kandal province for the $1.5 billion project.

A new international airport to replace the existing Phnom Penh International Airport will be constructed on partially reclaimed land adjacent to Boueng Cheung Loung, a large lake in Kandal province about 30 kilometres south of Phnom Penh, sources close to the project have said.

The Council of Ministers approved a proposal by Cambodia Airport Investment Co Ltd to construct the new airport in December and the government officially signed off on the project during the state visit of Chinese Prime Minister Li Keqiang earlier this month.

Cambodia Airport Investment, a joint venture 90 percent owned by Overseas Cambodia Investment Corporation (OCIC), one of the country’s largest real estate developers, and 10 percent by the government’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), plans to invest $1.5 billion to construct the new airport, documents show. The 4F class airport will be capable of handling large long-haul aircraft.

SSCA spokesman Sinn Chanserey Vutha said yesterday that the government has already approved the project’s site and the architectural master plan, and construction is expected to begin in early 2019.

He said the airport will be built in Kandal Steung district next to the arterial road that connects Kandal and Svay Rieng provinces.

“The new airport will be built along National Road 21 where there is a huge lake and the site will be within the capital’s planned third ring road,” he said.

The Council of Ministers earmarked a total of 2,600 hectares for the airport project, though it remains unclear whether this is state land or part of OCIC’s vast land bank.

A map obtained by the Post indicates the airport terminal and runway will be built on the western shore of Boueng Cheung Loung, about 10 kilometres from one of Prime Minister Hun Sen’s primary residences in Ta Khamao. The map appears to show large tracts north and east of the airport earmarked for the project’s development, and some overlap with the lake itself.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Ground crew welcome an arriving Qatar Airways flight at Phnom Penh International Airport. The capital’s future airport in Kandal province will be designed to handle even larger aircraft. Post staff

Chanserey Vutha confirmed that a portion of the lake will be reclaimed to accommodate the new airport complex.

“The location of this airport extends into the lake and they will have to fill the lake with sand before they can start the construction of the airport and the nearby commercial centre,” he said.

He said the airport will be built on 700 hectares – about double the footprint of Phnom Penh’s existing airport. The remaining land will be developed into Airport City, a mixed-use development that will include a commercial centre and residential housing.

“Investing in an airport alone won’t allow the investors to generate profit, so there must be commercial centres and other amenities nearby to attract customers,” he explained.

Chanserey Vutha declined to comment on whether the existing Phnom Penh International Airport would be reallocated or dismantled once the new airport is operational.

However, the government will need to negotiate a settlement with Cambodia Airports, the French majority-owned company that holds a concession to operate the Kingdom’s three international airports until 2040. Cambodia Airports recently invested $100 million into expanding the airports in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, doubling their overall capacity to 10 million passengers a year.

Chhay Sivlin, head of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA), said the announcement of plans to build a bigger airport for Phnom Penh should be seen as a positive step, adding that the rising volume of air traffic could be split between the old and new airports.

“Currently, Phnom Penh International Airport is very busy, and that’s why we need a new airport in order to share the demand on transportation,” she said. “This new airport must have higher passenger capacity to handle the rising number of international visitors. It should also be big enough to hold large Boeing planes, because the capacity of the current airport does not allow that.”

Kim Heang, head of the Cambodian Valuers and Estate Agents Association (CVEA), said news of the airport’s planned construction has already sent real estate prices in the area soaring.

“Before the news was announced, the ricefields and lakeside property in the area were valued at about $20,000 to $50,000 per hectare,” he said. “However, after the news, these properties have begun selling for $70,000 to $80,000 per hectare, and some are even going for $100,000 to $200,000 per hectare.”

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