Swiss challenge for Bulacan airport seen within first quarter

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THE Department of Transportation (DoTr) is targeting to hold the Swiss challenge for the Bulacan airport proposal of San Miguel Holdings Corp. (SMHC) within the first quarter of the year.

Transportation Undersecretary for Planning Ruben S. Reinoso, Jr. told reporters on Wednesday they are now processing the terms of reference for the Swiss challenge.

Nag-create na kami ng [We created a] special bids and awards committee sa [in the] DoTr. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, we will advertise for the Swiss challenge. We’re working on the terms of reference for the Swiss challenge now,” he said.

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

SMHC’s unsolicited proposal to build a P735-billion New Manila International Airport in Bulacan has been approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board last year, but still required further evaluation due to financial issues raised by the Department of Finance (DoF).

But Mr. Reinoso said on Wednesday they have already addressed the concerns of the DoF, which sought clarification on the phased implementation and material adverse government action (MAGA) clause of the project.

Asked for details, he said, “Basically, clarification lang [just a clarification] on the phased implementation, clarification on exclusion of local government unit in government action, in MAGA.”

On the phased implementation of the proposal, Mr. Reinoso said the DoTr wants the airport to start operations immediately to maximize its use as soon as possible.

He noted SMHC committed the airport will begin initial operations in three to four years with 35 million passenger capacity.

Ang sinasabi namin sa kanila, yan ang policy ng DoTr — partial operability. So we want to do it in phases… Hindi namin tatapusin yung buong facility to operate it [We told them that’s the policy of the DoTr — partial operability. So we want to do it in phases… We won’t wait for the whole facility to finish to operate it],” he said.

Mr. Reinoso said there is a great need for a new airport as Clark International Airport’s capacity would not be enough to cater to the growing demand, and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is already operating beyond capacity.

“NAIA has outlived its usefulness, obviously. Wala ka nang magawa talaga eh [There’s nothing you can do about it]… I think that it’s safe for us that a new airport will be in place,” he said.

The proposal of SMHC includes the construction, operation and maintenance of a 2,500-hectare airport in Bulacan with four to six parallel runways.. — Denise A. Valdez