THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) may open the Swiss challenge for the New Bohol-Panglao International Airport next month and is still awaiting approval from the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for the proposal to upgrade the airport.

“For the Bohol-Panglao airport, we are now in the process of finalizing our negotiations with the proponent. Maybe by next month it will be approved by NEDA and then right after that we’ll open the Swiss challenge,” Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said on the sidelines of an event last week.

The Aboitiz group, through its infrastructure arm — Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc. — secured original proponent status for the operations and maintenance of the airport for 25 years.

In January, Mr. Bautista said companies wishing to match the proposal of Aboitiz InfraCapital  to operate, maintain, and expand the New Bohol–Panglao International Airport may have their chance in the first quarter.

The Swiss challenge allows other companies to submit alternative proposals to a project, with the original proponent granted the right to match them.

Valued at P4.5 billion and structured as a public-private partnership, this project is expected to serve approximately 3.9 million passengers a year once completed, up from its current capacity of two million passengers.

Aboitiz InfraCapital, has also submitted proposals for the operations, maintenance, and development of Bicol International Airport in Southern Luzon and Laguindingan International Airport in Northern Mindanao. — Ashley Erika O. Jose