Passengers queue at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 in Pasay City, Oct. 29, 2022. — PHILIPPINE STAR/MIGUEL DE GUZMAN

THE DEPARTMENT of Transportation (DoTr) expects the winning bidder for the P170.6-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) rehabilitation project to take over by mid-2024.

Transportation Secretary Jaime J. Bautista on Wednesday said the government will conduct the solicited bidding for the NAIA public-private partnership (PPP) project as soon as the terms are published.

He told reporters that the government hopes to award the project by December.

“This has no Swiss challenge, so if we give the award, what happens next is what we call financial closing, which will take three to six months. So, hopefully by the middle of 2024 we can already start the concession agreement with the winning bidder,” he said in mixed English and Filipino.

On Wednesday, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved the project to rehabilitate, operate and expand the country’s main gateway.

The NAIA rehabilitation project aims to increase the current annual passenger capacity of the airport to at least 62 million from 35 million.

“The critical issue now is the bid parameter, particularly the basis for choosing the winning bidder,” transportation expert Rene S. Santiago said in a Viber message.

Nigel Paul C. Villarete, senior adviser at a technical advisory group on PPP with Libra Konsult, Inc., said that the NAIA rehabilitation project is on the right track as it will be undertaken as a solicited proposal similar to the Mactan-Cebu International Airport.

However, he said the bidding for the NAIA project should not be “rushed” even though there is dire need to rehabilitate the aging airport.

“Haste will only result in an inferior product, not to mention a failing transaction. The existing terminals can always continue to take the excess capacity, and they normally do all over the world,” he said.

“We’re doing a NAIA terminal to serve for 25 years, maybe even 50 years, [so we should] allow the planning and preparation to take its due course. Rushing will only endanger the end result or product,” he added.

To ensure the project’s success, Mr. Villarete said the government should conduct thorough consultations with stakeholders and prospective bidders and follow the NEDA guidelines to the letter without taking any shortcuts. — Justine Irish D. Tabile