THE BILL granting a 50-year franchise to the San Miguel Aerocity, Inc.  on Wednesday hurdled the Senate Committee on Public Services, the panel chairperson said.

“The hearing has been adjourned as the members of the Committee are supportive and many have recognized the benefits of this new project,” Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamanzares told reporters in a phone message.

The bill will be endorsed for plenary deliberations, subject to the submission of required documents from the concerned agencies.

“Just like any other franchise, we will coordinate with the agencies for the submission of the required certifications, so that we can endorse it to the plenary.”

The public services committee, led by Senator Grace S. Poe-Llamazares, was tackling the franchise application of San Miguel Aerocity, under House Bill No. 7507 and Senate Bill No. 1823.

During the hearing, Senators Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Richard J. Gordon, Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, and Emmanuel Joel J. Villanueva expressed their support for the franchise.

The proposed P1.5-trillion Bulacan airport and “airport city” is expected to accommodate 100 million passengers annually. San Miguel Aerocity will also build an expressway that will link it to North Luzon Expressway and a rail link through Metro Rail Transit-7.

If enacted, the Senate bill will grant a 50-year franchise, inclusive of a 10-year maximum period for the design, planning and construction of the airport and airport city. It will also exempt the grantee from direct and indirect taxes during the 10-year construction period.

The grantee will also be entitled to a 12% revenue share annually, upon determination by a competent authority that San Miguel Aerocity has recovered the investment cost.

In the same hearing, an official of San Miguel Corp. (SMC), the airport’s proponent, said the company is set to dredge rivers near the proposed Bulacan airport site to address flooding.

“As we speak, we are in the process of doing the detailed engineering design to ensure that all rivers are designed appropriately,” said Edgar L. Dona, operations head of San Miguel Holdings Corp.

“We intend to dredge and increase the carrying capacity of these rivers,” he said.

The dredging will cover the Taliptip, Meycauayan and Sta. Maria rivers.

The move is in response to concerns that the airport will worsen flooding in the area, as raised by Mr. Villanueva, who hails from Bulacan.

Mr. Dona said SMC is coordinating with the Department of Public Works and Highways to address other rivers, such as the Tullahan river, that affects the Manila Bay.

“Right now, we are embarking on a capacity enhancement project involving the Tullahan,” he said. — Charmaine A. Tadalan