By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter

THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) is hoping to conduct a Swiss challenge for Aboitiz Group’s unsolicited proposal for the operations and maintenance (O&M) of Bohol-Panglao International Airport (BPIA) by first quarter of 2020.

“We hope by fist quarter next year. We have yet to commence negotiations with proponent on terms of concession agreement,” DoTr Assistant Secretary Goddes Hope Oliveros-Libiran said in a phone message to BusinessWorld on Wednesday when asked about the timeline for the Swiss challenge on the project.

The Aboitiz Group, through its infrastructure arm, Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. (AIC), had submitted the unsolicited proposal for the project which was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board last week.

The Swiss challenge is the competitive bidding process where third party companies are invited to submit counterproposals to a project, which the original proponent has the right to match.

In a press release on Wednesday, the DoTr said the implementation of the proposed P3.8 billion project is expected to begin in 2020. It has a 25-year concession period.

Phase 1, which includes the initial enhancement and installation of internal fit-outs of existing facilities, will be implemented from 2020 to 2021.

The DoTr said Phase 2, which includes the BPIA’s optimization and reconfiguration, will be implemented from 2026 to 2027.

“It is our hope that this new airport will help propel development in Bohol and the rest of the Visayas,” Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade was quoted as saying in the DoTr’s statement.