A TURKISH airport operator has joined seven other entities that have bought bidding documents for a project that will upgrade the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), the Transportation chief said.

“There are eight possible bidders. Last week, there was one company from Turkey [that] bought the bidding documents. We are now in the process of [arranging] one-on-one meetings with them. We are responding to their questions, to their queries,” Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said in a forum facilitated by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines on Monday.

The Department of Transportation (DoTr) identified the Turkish airport operator “Limak Group” as the latest potential bidder for the rehabilitation of the country’s main international gateway.

“In the aviation sector, on top of the list of projects is the public-private partnership (PPP) for the rehabilitation, operation, optimization and maintenance of [NAIA],” Mr. Bautista said.

The DoTr earlier said it had conducted one-on-one meetings with four prospective bidders and was in the process of arranging similar discussions with the other entities.

“We are expecting that they will be able to meet our deadline to submit their proposal by Dec. 27. As far as the bidding is concerned, all of them will submit the best and final offer by December and after that, we will evaluate the bidding and award by the first quarter of 2024,” Mr. Bautista said.

According to its website, Turkey-based Limak Group is engaged in infrastructure, aviation services and energy businesses.

Established in 1976, it said that among the projects it is currently undertaking are the Istanbul New Airport Project, the 1915 Canakkale Bridge and the Malkara-Canakkale Motorway in Turkey, Kuwait International Airport, and Volgograd International Airport in Russia.

According to the DoTr, the other potential bidders eyeing NAIA’s rehabilitation are Incheon International Airport Corp., San Miguel Holdings Corp., Manila International Airport Consortium, Cengiz Insaat Sanayi ve Ticaret A.S., GMR Airports International, Spark 888 Management, and Asia Airport Consortium.

NAIA’s rehabilitation aims to decongest the airport by helping improve its annual passenger capacity to 62 million from the current 35 million.

The winning bidder for the airport upgrade is required to pay an upfront amount of about P30 billion and an annual payment of P2 billion, plus a share of revenue, the draft concession agreement said.

According to the NAIA-PPP concession agreement, the contract term for the project is 15 years, extendable by another 10 years. The project will be a rehabilitate-operate-expand-transfer arrangement, as provided for under the Build-Operate-and-Transfer Law.

The DoTr has set the deadline for bid submission on Dec. 27. It has said that it expects to announce the winning bidder by the first quarter of 2024.

In August, the government invited bidders for the P170.6-billion public-private partnership to modernize and operate the main gateway airport. — Ashley Erika O. Jose