Aboitiz unit hopes to start operating two airports by end-2019

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THE infrastructure unit of Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. (AEV) hopes to start operating two regional airports by the end of 2019, including the P42.7-billion Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental.

Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. (AIC) said in a statement on Tuesday that it has clarified some of the Department of Transportation (DoTr)’s questions on its original unsolicited proposal for the upgrade, operations, maintenance, and expansion of the Laguindingan Airport last December.

“It is not a revised offer but a response to DoTr’s requests [for additional info],” AIC Chief Operating Officer Cosette V. Canilao was quoted as saying in a statement.

The company also said it has identified engineering firm Arup as consultant for the technical studies and master plan for the Laguindingan proposal. Arup has experience in designing international airports, including Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York and the Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3.

AIC is also upbeat on its proposal for upgrade, operations, maintenance, and expansion of the Bohol-Panglao International Airport. The company was granted original proponent status (OPS) for the project last September.

After getting OPS, the proposal will now go through the National Economic Development Authority for evaluation. It will then be subjected to a Swiss challenge where other firms submit competing bids that the original proponent AIC will have the right to match.

“We are hopeful that the government will allow us to operate these two regional gateways this year,” said Ms. Canilao, who was the head of the government’s Public-Private Partnership Center for five years until March 2016.

Both airports are part of AIC’s bundled proposal worth P148 billion in April last year to modernize four regional airports, the other two being the Iloilo International Airport and Bacolod-Silay Airport. The company envisioned to transform the facilities into world-class airports that “every Filipino deserves and can be proud of.”

The bundled proposal, however, was rejected, as the DoTr favored the submission of separate proposals for each project. The Aboitiz-led firm’s bullish stance on regional airport projects is in line with the government’s infrastructure program, as well as its decision to align its priority projects with that of the requirements of the country, namely water and transport projects.

AIC is also part of the group of seven conglomerates forming the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) consortium, which proposed to rehabilitate, operate, and expand the country’s premier gateway.

The consortium was granted OPS by the Manila International Airport Authority last September.

“We are hopeful that the government will grant the consortium the notice to proceed this 2019 so that we can commence the expansion of NAIA to accommodate 65 million passengers per year,” NAIA Consortium Spokesperson Jose Emmanuel P. Reverente earlier said in a statement. — Arra B. Francia