Bulacan airport project groundbreaking being delayed — proponent

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New Manila International Airport

THE GROUNDBREAKING for the planned Bulacan airport that was planned for this month is being delayed after the government raised concerns about the contract, the project proponent told reporters on Sunday.

At the same time, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) said the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) rehabilitation project, which the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved on Friday last week, is expected to be implemented starting 2021 even as the project has yet to undergo Swiss challenge whereby the original proposal will be matched by competing offers of other parties.

Delayed na ’yung groundbreaking dahil on hold eh,” San Miguel Corp. President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang told reporters last Sunday in Alabang when asked for updates on the planned groundbreaking for the Bulacan airport.

Asked when San Miguel was supposed to break ground for the project, Mr. Ang replied: “This December, kaya lang meron na naman silang (but the government again raised) issue.”

Tanungin n’yo kay (DoTr Secretary Arthur P.) Tugade. Meron na naman bagong (There is a new) issue daw eh. Meron na namang nagtatanoong ng kung ano-ano (Someone is again raising various issues)… Nagpadala na naman daw ng mga sulat, ng kung ano-ano na naman. Dini-delay nila (Someone again sent a letter raising various issues. The project is being delayed),” he added.

Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade told reporters separately that it was the Department of Finance (DoF) that raised concerns about the project contract.

“Its not even a major concern.Si (Finance) Sec(retary Carlos G.) Dominguez (III) mahal niya ang bayan. Makikita niyo ’yung mga contract na dinaan sa Finance it will benefit the country (he loves the country. You will see that contracts reviewed by DoF benefit the country),” Mr. Tugade said.

Gusto niya lang makita na talagang ‘yung sinasabi namin na (Mr. Dominguez just wants to make sure that contracts are) in favor of government, ma-klaro. He is not making objections. In other words it’s an issue of wordings and interpretations kaya sinama sa DoJ (Department of Justice) review… ’yung cap sa (concerning the cap on government) liabilty,” he added.

Noting that the contract for upgrading as well as operation and maintenance of Clark International Airport caps the government’s liability in the project, Mr. Tugade said there should also be such a cap in the Bulacan airport project.

The P734-billion Bulacan airport project, which will be officially called the New Manila International Airport, involves construction of a 2,400-hectare airport with four parallel runways (expandable to six runways), eight taxiways and three passenger terminal buildings. It will have an annual capacity of 100 million travelers, which the government hopes will help decongest Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay City.

As for NAIA rehabilitation, the DoTr said in a news release on Monday that the project with have three phases running from 2021 to 2024.

The consortium undertaking the project consists of Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc; AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp.; Alliance Global Group, Inc.; Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp.; Filinvest Development Corp.; JG Summit Holdings, Inc.; and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

Phase 1, which will be implemented from 2021 to 2022, “involves the immediate improvements and reconfiguration of the existing airport terminals” that will increase NAIA’s capacity to 47 million passengers per annum (MPPA) from 31 MPPA currently.

Phase 2, from 2022 to 2023, will cover development of a new passenger building (Terminal 2 Annex) and improvement of the corresponding apron to increase the capacity to 21 MPPA from 11 MPPA. This phase also involves reconfiguration and expansion of the Terminal 3 building and apron to increase terminal capacity to 24 MMPA from 23 MPPA, as well as construction of a new taxiway and installation and upgrading of Communications, Navigation, Surveillance/Air Traffic Management equipment.

Phase 3, to be implemented from 2023 to 2024, will cover, among others, construction of new terminals (a new terminal annex building will add 5 MPPA) and expansion of existing terminals to increase capacity to 65 MPPA from 58 MPPA.

The NEDA Board approved approved last Friday the unsolicited P102-billion proposal from the country’s top tycoons to rehabilitate NAIA. The project will be subjected to a Swiss challenge after the Manila International Airport Authority and the NAIA Consortium agree on terms and condition of the concession agreement. MIAA will submit the draft agreement to the Office of the Solicitor General and the DoF for comment. — Arjay L. Balinbin