By Beatrice M. Laforga

THE National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Board on Friday approved an unsolicited proposal from the country’s top tycoons to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), as well as five other infrastructure projects and the revised list of infrastructure flagship projects.

Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said on Friday that the P102-billion proposal to rehabilitate the NAIA has secured its final approval from the NEDA Board, which President Rodrigo R. Duterte chairs.

With the approval, the NAIA rehabilitation will be subjected to a Swiss challenge.

Under the Swiss challenge, companies are invited to submit counterproposals to the project, which the original proponent may then match.

A “super consortium” composed of seven conglomerates, had offered to rehabilitate and expand NAIA over 15-year period at a project cost of P102 billion. The conglomerates involved are 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., had

The NAIA rehabilitation is expected to increase its capacity to handle passengers to 47 million a year in the first two years and further expand this to 65 million after four years.

The international airport has been operating beyond its 30.5-million passenger capacity with 45.3 million passengers last year, 42 million in 2017 and 39.5 million in 2016.

In a phone message on Friday, Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) President and Chief Executive Officer Vivencio B. Dizon said that the NEDA Board approval of the revised list of infrastructure flagship projects showed how serious the government is in implementing the Build, Build, Build program.

Among the approved projects that are included in the list, Mr. Dizon said, are the proposals for NAIA rehabilitation, the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, Samal Island-Davao City Connector (SIDC) project and the Davao public transport modernization project.

“All these are in the list of 100 flagship projects so this shows how serious the government is in swiftly moving towards the realization of the Build, Build, Build program and allow our people — to use the words of the President — to use use use them in order to live a more comfortable life,” said Mr. Dizon, who is also the presidential adviser for flagship infrastructure projects.

Midway through the administration’s term, the government reviewed and decided to revise its list of infrastructure flagship program to 100 from the previous 75 projects, scrapping those deemed no longer feasible while including “small but game-changing ones”.

In a statement released Friday, the NEDA Board has approved a total of seven new projects on Friday with an estimated total project cost of P187.34 billion.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia was quoted in the statement, saying that five out of seven projects will be implemented outside the National Capital Region.

“This shows that the administration is committed to develop growth centers in the regions and maximize the economic benefits of connectivity of communities,” Mr. Pernia said.

Among the projects that secured NEDA Board’s nod are the unsolicited proposal for the new Bohol-Panglao International Airport and the P18.66-billion Davao public transport modernization project of the Department of Transportation (DoTr).

The Davao public transport modernization project will be financed through official development assistance (ODA) loans and is targetted for construction next year through 2023. The project “involves the delivery of a modern, high priority bus system (HPBS) for Davao City,” the statement read.

Three projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) were also approved, namely the P14.97 billion Pasacao-Balatan Coastal Tourism Highway, the P23.04-billion SIDC project and the P9.23 billion Camarines Sur High-Speed Highway.

The Pasacao-Balatan Coastal Tourism Highway is earmarked for implementation next year until 2023 and is expected to be opened by 2024.

The project plans to construct a “four-lane coastal tourism highway along the west coast of Camarines Sur, with a total length of 40.69 kilometers,” as well as the construction of 13 bridges.

The SIDC project aims to construct a permanent road linking Davao City and the Island Garden City of Samal by 2025.

“The Project involves the construction of a toll-free four-lane [two-lane each direction] bridge with an approximate length of 2.80 kilometers, a width of 24.2 meters, and a vertical clearance of 45 meters that can serve around 25,000 vehicles a day,” it said.

Meanwhile, the Camarines Sur High-Speed Highway, a 15.21-kilometer four-lane highway, will provide an alternative route from Legazpi to Caramoan to Manila, and vice versa.

Lastly, Department of Health’s P15.53 billion Development Objective Assistance agreement for improved health for undeserved Filipinos was also approved and is expected to be completed by Sept. 30, 2024.

“The program will respond to the issues on logistics and pharmaceutical management, shortages of qualified health professionals in underserved areas, and inadequate public sector capacity in policy development, financing and private sector engagement. The following are the planned activities under the program: tuberculosis; family planning; and health systems strengthening,” NEDA said.

Also during the same meeting, the NEDA Board said that Investment Coordination Committe-Cabinet Committee approved to increase the cost and change the scope of Mindanao Railway Project: Tagum-Davao-Digos Segment to PhP81.69 billion.

“The NEDA Board also noted the earlier confirmation ad referendum of 20 projects from August 22 to October 9 this year. These include projects from DPWH (9), DoTr (3), Department of Finance (3), Philippine Competition Commission (1), Department of Agriculture (1), Landbank of the Philippines (1), National Irrigation Administration (1), and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (1),” the statement read further.