NAIA rehab bidder cites project urgency amid rising demand

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Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA)

THE CONSORTIUM bidding to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) for P350 billion said the government could speed up the process of approving its proposal, to keep up with the number of passengers set to use the terminal by 2020.

In a statement issued over the weekend, the consortium composed of seven of the country’s largest conglomerates noted how the current processing time for unsolicited proposals takes more than a year to complete. With this, NAIA will still be accommodating passengers well past its capacity in the next two years.

“The government can expedite the approvals allowed under existing rules. That will be the best scenario. Once we complete our short-term expansion and upgrading plans, passenger convenience will be immediately felt. There will be more space for everybody and that is just the first step,” Jose Emmanuel P. Reverente, the spokesperson for the consortium, was quoted as saying in a statement.

The Department of Transportation said in February that it will decide on the consortium’s proposal by April. The department could award the original proponent status (OPS) to the group, or reject its offer.

The seven-conglomerate consortium includes Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc., Ayala-controlled AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Andrew L. Tan’s Alliance Global Group, Inc., Lucio C. Tan’s Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp., Filinvest Development Corp., JG Summit Holdings, Inc., and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

Should the group bag the OPS for the project, the government will invite other bidders to improve on the offer through a Swiss challenge. The consortium will then be given the chance to match the offer, an advantage of OPS.

There are currently two proposals to rehabilitate the country’s premier gateway, with the other headed by Megawide Construction Corp. and India’s GMR Infrastructure Ltd. The Megawide-GTR consortium’s proposal to spend $3 billion for NAIA’s rehab, with the concession period to run for 18 years, around half of the first group’s proposed 35 years.

The bidding war for NAIA’s rehabilitation comes as the government seeks solutions for congestion at the airport. In 2017, NAIA’s four terminals served around 42 million passengers, beyond their designed capacity of 31 million.

“By 2019, the projection is we will have 47 million passengers. And the NAIA terminals will still have the same 31-million passenger capacity. So it is urgent for the country to get this project going because doing nothing as a result of a long approval process will set all of us back,” Mr. Reverente said.

The consortium said the first phase of the expansion will take 48 months, set to double NAIA’s capacity to 65 million passengers per year. The first of two phases will include the improvement and expansion of existing terminals. The second phase will depend on necessary capacity upgrades upon consultation with the government, which will further expand the airport’s capacity to 100 million passengers annually.

It has tapped Changi Airports International Pte. Ltd. as the technical partner for the rehabilitation.

“But if we can have our first wave completed by, say, 2020, tourism can become so much stronger that it can be a third economic pillar after the BPO (business process outsourcing) and OFW (overseas Filipino worker) remittances,” Mr. Reverente said. — Arra B. Francia