By Denise A. Valdez
THE SUPER consortium seeking to rehabilitate the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is still hopeful the Swiss challenge for the project can begin by mid-2019 as it continues negotiations with the Department of Transportation (DoTr).
Asked for the timeline of the project, spokesperson for the group dubbed as “NAIA consortium,” Jose Emmanuel “Jimbo” P. Reverente, said on Saturday they are targeting Swiss challenge by “mid year, (so) if we win we can operate by late this year.”
“We are encouraged at the progress of our talks. We are hopeful that agreeing on many of the terms now will lead to a more expeditious approval process going forward,” he said in a mobile message.
The Swiss challenge is a form of procurement where other companies are invited to challenge an original proponent’s project, after which the latter has the chance to match the competing bid.
Last Wednesday, Transportation Undersecretary for Planning Ruben S. Reinoso, Jr. told reporters the DoTr is set to meet with the NAIA consortium this week to fine-tune some details of the group’s P102-billion proposal to rehabilitate and expand the Manila gateway.
“[T]here are certain conditions na [that] they have to comply with… (We’ll discuss) provisions appearing to be government guarantee,” he said.
The group is formed by seven of the country’s top conglomerates, namely 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., with Singapore’s Changi Airports International Private Ltd. as its technical partner.
Even before the group was granted original proponent status (OPS) in September, the existence of a government guarantee in its proposal was raised during a Senate hearing in August, particularly a certain provision on adjusting the airport’s terminal fees over time.
The NAIA consortium has since clarified it shouldn’t be treated as a government guarantee, as “airport proposals have provisions for terminal fees which are subjected to reasonable adjustment during the life of the contract.”
The DoTr was supposed to elevate the group’s proposal to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) before 2018 ended, but negotiations with the proponent are still on-going.
“Ina-argue nila na hindi naman government guarantee ‘yun, inaargue nila na it’s important for the bankability [They’re arguing that it’s not a government guarantee, that it’s important for the bankability of the project]… So we’re still negotiating with them,” Mr. Reinoso said on Wednesday, without specifying provisions deemed as government guarantee.
The group wants to expand the existing terminals and build new taxiways at the heavily congested NAIA over a 15-year period. This is hoped to increase the airport’s annual capacity to 47 million in two years and to 65 million in four years.
The original proposal the NAIA consortium submitted in February 2018 cost P350 billion and included the construction of an additional runway over a 35-year concession period, but was reduced eventually per the DoTr’s request.