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Aboitiz unit offers to upgrade 4 airports

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Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. is proposing to upgrade four key gateways to Visayas and Mindanao. -- ABOITIZ INFRACAPITAL

By Krista A. M. Montealegre,
National Correspondent

THE infrastructure unit of the Aboitiz Group submitted an unsolicited proposal to modernize four key regional airports for close to P150 billion.

Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (AEV), in a disclosure to the stock exchange on Wednesday, said Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc.’s P148-billion multi-phased project covers the transformation of the Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Laguindingan Airport, and New Bohol International Airport in Panglao into world-class facilities. The proposal offers a 35-year concession period.

Aboitiz InfraCapital noted it is important to develop, operate and maintain all four airports to unlock synergies that would benefit all stakeholders, including the government.

“Not only will none of the airports require any form of subsidy, the combined potential of the four regional gateways results in overall gains for both the government and the local economy,” Aboitiz InfraCapital President and Chief Executive Officer Sabin M. Aboitiz was quoted in a statement as saying.

The government launched a tender for a public-private partnership for five regional airports under the Build-Operate-Transfer Law in 2014, but this plan was canceled when President Rodrigo R. Duterte took over.

The Duterte administration prefers the “hybrid” financing scheme, under which the government funds construction through the national budget or official development assistance, and then bids out the operation and maintenance to the private sector.

The airports are considered the key gateways to Visayas and Mindanao, and their development is envisioned to help decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila.

Aboitiz InfraCapital pointed out the airports have failed to keep up with the strong growth seen over the years in these areas. Iloilo and Bacolod airports have been running for 10 years, while the Laguindingan airport has been operating above its capacity since opening in 2013. The new Bohol airport aims to open the island further to the international tourism market.

“Through this unsolicited proposal, we intend to support the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program as we develop sustainable airport facilities that reflect and support the tremendous economic and tourism potential of the Philippines’ regions and provinces,” Mr. Aboitiz said.

Innovation will be at the heart of the airport redevelopment proposal, Mr. Aboitiz said.

Aboitiz InfraCapital will adopt the “green airports” concept wherein the planning, implementation and operation will have the least environmental impact and the “connected airports” approach that will leverage technology to enhance passenger experience.

If the government awards the project within the year, Aboitiz InfraCapital said it could start working with the relevant government and community stakeholders to improve operations and passenger experience in 2019, and the major upgrades and capacity expansion could be completed by 2021.

AEV is also part of the “super consortium” composed of Ayala Corp. Alliance Global Group Inc., Asia Emerging Dragon, Filinvest Development Corp., JG Summit Holdings, Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. that filed a P350-billion proposal to rehabilitate NAIA.

Apart from infrastructure, the Aboitiz Group is also engaged in power, financial services, real estate and manufacturing.

Shares in AEV fell 25 centavos or 0.34% to close at P73 apiece on Wednesday.