While Cambodia Airports, of which France-based Vinci Group is major stakeholder, sees tourist numbers taking off, eviction issues are gnawing at the company’s image. Emmanuel Menanteau, chief executive of Cambodia Airports, talked to the Post’s Sarah Thust about the expansion plans.
How many tourist arrivals do you expect this year?
Last year, we crossed the two million passengers for the two main airports. This year, we expect around 2.3 to 2.4 million passengers each – in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. This is why we plan to increase the capacity of the two terminals to around four million to five million passengers.
We also decided to increase the size of our cargo terminal at the Phnom Penh International Airport. In 2012, we had a more than 50 per cent increase in cargo import and export, mainly in Phnom Penh.
What will be the next step?
As we believe that Phnom Penh will reach soon capacity, we decided to launch a terminal in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for an investment of about $100 million, and it will start this year after the [project has been validated by] the government. We expect to start the first phase of construction by December.
In line with the ASEAN meetings in Cambodia in 2012 we have already finished new aircraft parking.
How does your expansion affect the people who live around the airport in Phnom Penh?
The issue of evictions is not related to the extension of the terminal I mentioned. The terminal will be set up within our own boundaries, not affecting anybody living outside. The area related to the eviction issue is located at the end of our runway, along National Road 4.
The discussion about the eviction in the affected area started in 2005, and is related to security and safety issues. In the last few years, we have seen more and more houses developing near the runway. But we need to meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation, for example by avoiding housing near the runway
How will this issue be solved?
Last year the Royal Government of Cambodia has decided to find a solution in order to make sure we will be able to meet these safety standards.
To meet the necessary security standards during the ASEAN meetings last year, we proposed to create a second fence inside our boundaries, but this is not solving the safety issue for the people living nearby.
For that, the government has created a committee to study how we can solve the problem. At the moment, we’re doing a technical review to set up this committee. The second step will be for the committee to meet and to mandate an independent consultant to identify who are the people affected. Once this will be done, the committee and the management of the government will make sure that the families are fairly compensated.
Who will pay the compensation?
First of all, it’s the responsibility of the government to make sure that the surroundings of the airport meets international standards, and that in case of relocation rules and regulations are met. But as a company engaged in sustainable development, it is our responsibility to engage in such issues. This is part of our commitment to Cambodia.
What role does Cambodia play in the Vinci portfolio?
Coming to Cambodia was Vinci’s first step in its development in Asia, and it will be the model for our potential development in Myanmar, in the Philippines, in Indonesia. So far, it has been a big success for us to work with the Royal Government of Cambodia.