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Philippine conglomerate firms up $10-B airport project

Publication Date : 26-03-2014

 

San Miguel Corp. (SMC), one of the Philippines' most diversified conglomerates,is set to submit to President Aquino next month a proposal for a $10-billion alternative international airport to serve Metro Manila even as the government separately pursues a similar project, likely at a former US naval base in Sangley Point, Cavite.

SMC president Ramon S. Ang on Tuesday confirmed reports that the airport project would cover about 800 hectares of land and would be located at an unspecified area in Metro Manila. Ang declined to comment further.

SMC, which is also a minority stake of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, has long sought to build its own air gateway but uncertainty over the government’s stance on the matter prompted it to shelve the plan last year.

The proposal still faces other challenges, given the current administration’s bias against unsolicited projects.

Moreover, the Department of Transportation and Communications is looking at its own international airport project, to operate either alongside or as a replacement to the congested Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s busiest air gateway.

The three terminals at Naia handled about 32 million passengers last year, above its intended capacity of 30 million. Nevertheless, Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya said Tuesday that they were open to considering SMC’s proposal, once it is submitted.

“But based on policy, that would be an unsolicited proposal. It is not prohibited; however, there is a bias of government against it. We tend toward more open and transparent bids,” Abaya said in an interview.

Currently, Clark International Airport in Pampanga serves as an alternative gateway to Naia. However, it is located more than an hour away north of Metro Manila and has struggled to draw large international carriers.

Abaya noted that they were looking at a reclamation project in Sangley as a possible alternative given the requirement that the new airport be located no more than 20 minutes away from Metro Manila.

“Initially, it was Laguna de Bay or Sangley. But Jica (Japan International Cooperation Agency) has firmed up its position on Sangley. That was the report, they are firming that up,” Abaya said.

He noted that private sector groups had previously approached the DOTC to study Sangley as a potential location for a new international airport.

The development of new air gateways would be crucial to serving future needs as demand for air travel and tourism grows.

Jica, in a 2011 study, said annual passenger forecasts for the greater capital region, which covers the National Capital Region and Regions 3 and 4A, will rise from about 50 million in 2020 to 106.7 million in 2040.


 

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