By Denise A. Valdez, Reporter

SAN MIGUEL Corp. (SMC) is committing to pursue its P734-billion international airport project in Bulacan despite the challenges brought by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic to its finances.

During the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting on Tuesday, SMC Chief Finance Officer Ferdinand K. Constantino said part of the recovery plan is continuing with expansion plans as previously laid out.

“We are full steam ahead with our expansion efforts. We are still pursuing our plans to build the airport. With all the jobs we will create, we’ll help reset the economy and help it recover and move forward,” Mr. Constantino said, reading a speech prepared by the late SMC Chairman and CEO Eduardo M. Cojuangco, Jr. before his passing.

“As we begin our recovery as a nation, we face enormous transitional challenges. But as a company, I believe we are in good shape. We will act with the agility that’s become instinctive to us in the last few months,” he added.

SMC’s airport project is handled by its wholly owned subsidiary San Miguel Holdings Corp., which was planning to break ground at its Bulacan site in January.

It is being pursued as an unsolicited proposal to the Department of Transportation, which gave its green light to the proponent in September last year.

In a briefing in Malacañang earlier this month, Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said the groundbreaking was delayed due to “private issues” of the company, on top of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The health and economic crisis has resulted in a P1.27 billion attributable net loss for SMC in the first quarter, a turnaround from the P5.71 billion profit it recorded the same period last year.

Its net sales decreased 15% to P214.07 billion as its income from operations dropped 62% to P11.73 billion.

Despite the challenges, SMC President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang said the company is optimistic it will “immediately recover and regain market share” if a cure for COVID-19 can be discovered soon.

The Bulacan airport project is touted as an alternative to the main Manila gateway in Pasay City, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It will consist of a 2,400-hectare airport north of Manila with four parallel runways, eight taxiways and three passenger terminal buildings.

Shares in SMC at the stock exchange increased 50 centavos or 0.50% to P100 each on Tuesday.