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SMC airport project up for Swiss challenge

Concession agreement needs President’s nod

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By Chino S. Leyco

San Miguel Corp.’s unsolicited airport proposal in Bulacan is not yet completely off the hook, as Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III clarified the ambitious infrastructure project needs another approval of the board chaired by the President.

Dominguez explained in a recent briefing that while the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board approved the P735.63 billion airport project, the formal process for its Swiss challenge will not begin until the final concession agreement is confirmed by the President.

According to the Finance chief, the NEDA Board, chaired by President Rodrigo R. Duterte, needs to review first the final concession agreement before allowing other groups to make counter offers for the project.

“It’s approved but the NEDA Board said they want to review the final terms of the concession agreement,” Dominguez told reporters. “I suppose the Swiss challenge — because that’s already the document right? — has to go to another review. That’s what I interpret it to me.”

Asked when the actual bidding process for the airport project could begin, Dominguez said it is up to the Department of Transportation (DOTr), citing the agency has “a specific timetable specified by the law and the IRR [implementing rules and regulations].”

“This project is a P735 billion project and we must make sure the proponent has the financial and technical capability of carrying it out, that’s all,” Dominguez said, adding that San Miguel is also allowed to enter into a partnership with other groups for its proposed airport in Bulacan, Bulacan.

Last week, Duterte approved nearly a trillion pesos worth of infrastructure projects, including the unsolicited proposal from San Miguel to build an international airport in the northern part of Metro Manila.

During the NEDA Board recent meeting, 20 big-ticket infrastructure proposals, including eight new projects, worth more than P974.8 billion were green-lighted by the President.

The largest among the projects approved by the NEDA Board was the P735.63 billion airport proposal submitted by San Miguel, a facility that once completed should help ease congestion at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). San Miguel’s proposed new international “aerotropolis” involves an airport covering 1,168 hectares and a city complex to be built at a 2,500-hectare area along Manila Bay in Bulacan, Bulacan.

The planned 50-year airport project will entail building six parallel runways with an initial annual capacity of 100 million passengers, or over triple the NAIA.

Dominguez, however, said that San Miguel’s unsolicited proposal is still “subject to final review of concession agreement.”

San Miguel’s airport project will be subject to a Swiss Challenge under government rules, meaning other groups will be invited to make competing offers, with the original bidder given the right to match any better proposal.

The Philippines, one of Asia’s fastest growing economies, is trying to improve infrastructure such as roads, ports, railways and airports with the help of the private sector under its $180 billion “Build, Build, Build” program.

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