By Arjay L. Balinbin

METRO PACIFIC Investments Corp. (MPIC) is considering pulling out of the so-called “super consortium” that is proposing to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) amid issues on the draft concession deal, its top official said.

“It’s gonna be a tough one — tough one for us to join,” MPIC Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan told reporters last week when asked for an update on the consortium.

Asked if there is a possibility for MPIC to withdraw from the consortium, he said: “We are thinking about it.”

He said the reasons include the unresolved issue on the real property tax (RPT) payments.

“RPTs, mga ganun-ganun (things like that),” Mr. Pangilinan said, adding that MPIC will have to make a final decision on the matter “soon.”

Siyempre (Of course) it’s unfair naman to make the consortium wait for us. Hindi naman fair ‘yun kasi (It wouldn’t be fair because) they have the right [to know] whether we are in or out,” he continued.

His comments come after Ruben S. Reinoso, Jr., Department of Transportation undersecretary for planning and project development, told reporters on Feb. 24 that the government and the NAIA consortium would have to renegotiate certain parts of the draft concession agreement.

These parts include the plan to lay off airport workers, the use of a bus rapid transit (BRT) system to transport passengers within the airport complex, and the RPT.

Mr. Reinoso said the consortium had suggested that the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), which is the primary grantor, should take part in RPT payments.

Nuong una, ang argument nila it’s on net present value, which means that the real property tax payment is part of the inflows to the government per se, pero sabi ko hindi ganun ang agreement natin kasi you will not be keeping MIAA whole [in that case]. Binawas mo pa ‘yung income nila, magagalit ang MIAA sa atin niyan,” he said.

(At first, their argument was that it’s on net present value, which means that the real property tax payment is part of the inflows to the government per se, but I said that was not our agreement because you will not be keeping MIAA whole in that case. Then you also took out their income, MIAA will be angry with us because of that.)

“MIAA should be kept whole, kasi if that is the case, as a corporate, magsa-suffer naman ang MIAA, hindi kami papayag doon and that was the agreement… Pumayag na sila na hindi nila ibabawas sa payment sa gobyerno ‘yun,” he added.

(MIAA should be kept whole because if that is the case, as a corporate, it will suffer. We will not allow that and that was the agreement. They already consented that they will not take it out of the payment to the government.)

Mr. Reinoso said further that the consortium is now defining the boundaries of the property and that they may also start negotiating on the RPT payments with the local government unit (LGU).

Kasi LGU ang nangongolekta niyan, hindi naman kami (It’s the LGU that collects that, not us),” he noted.

Mr. Reinoso also said the government was hoping that concerns regarding the concession agreement would be settled by this month.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board approved in November last year the unsolicited P102-billion proposal from a consortium composed of the country’s top conglomerates to rehabilitate the country’s main gateway.

The so-called NAIA super consortium is composed of Aboitiz InfraCapital, Inc; AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp.; Alliance Global Group, Inc.; Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp.; Filinvest Development Corp.; JG Summit Holdings, Inc.; and Mr. Pangilinan’s MPIC.

“After we have concluded the negotiation, we will go back to the NEDA Board to report on the results of the negotiation and get confirmation,” Mr. Reinoso said.

After which, MIAA will submit the draft agreement to the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Finance for comment, he added.

Since it is an unsolicited proposal, the NAIA rehabilitation project will still be subjected to a Swiss challenge.

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.

The rehabilitation of the NAIA, whose main terminal opened in 1981, is expected to increase its capacity to 47 million passengers a year in the first two years and further expand this to 65 million passengers after four years.

The NAIA, which has four terminals, has been operating beyond its 30.5 million passenger capacity. It recorded 45.3 million passengers in 2018.

MPIC is one of three Philippine units of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., the others being PLDT, Inc. and Philex Mining Corp. Hastings Holdings, Inc. — a unit of PLDT Beneficial Trust Fund subsidiary MediaQuest Holdings, Inc. — maintains interest in BusinessWorld through the Philippine Star Group, which it controls.