Gov’t set to OK SMC’s Bulacan airport project

MANILA, Philippines — A proposed new airport at Bulacan province from conglomerate San Miguel Corp. could finally get a go-ahead from the government by early next year, paving the way to its construction meant to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

“Hopefully, if everything is agreed upon, the proponent can be granted final approval and award of the contract by early next year or hopefully toward the end of this year,” Transportation Undersecretary Ruben Reinoso said in a briefing on Tuesday.

The proposal of an airport in Bulacan substituted SMC’s original proposal in 2014 to the previous government to construct a $10-billion airport in the reclaimed area at Manila Bay.

During the time, the previous government of Benigno Aquino III has refused to accept unsolicited infrastructure projects from the private sector, partly because of corruption controversies that hounded past unsolicited projects like the construction of the Terminal 3 of the NAIA in 2001.

Unsolicited proposals mean the study for the project’s feasibility and viability is done by the private proponent, not by the government. In effect, it is the private sector proposing the project for construction and not the other way around.

When the Duterte administration took office in July 2016, it became open to accepting unsolicited proposals, which included that of the proposed 50-year concession agreement for SMC’s Bulacan airport.

Reinoso said the government and San Miguel Holdings Corp.—a unit of SMC—are in final stages of revising the contract’s terms.

Once the project is approved, it would still undergo a Swiss challenge where SMC’s original proposal would be placed on tender offer to see if other potential bidders can match it.

Earlier, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III expressed concerns that SHMC might not have the financial capability to build the massive international hub over a 2,500-hectare property with six runways and can handle up to 100 million passengers a year.

He had suggested that SHMC should sign joint liability agreements with its parent company to ensure it would not be overwhelmed by costs. SMC had said it is ready to initiate those sharing mechanisms as soon as the concession agreement is signed.

The airport in Bulacan is one of the two gateways being prioritized by the government to decongest NAIA’s three terminals, which have been operating over their capacity.


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