By James A. Loyola
If all things go according to plan, diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corporation hopes to be operating by the end of 2024 its massive $14 billion (P735 bilion) aeropolis in Bulacan — the most ambitious infrastructure project to be started under the present administration.
“Our proposal to build a new, world-class international gateway — the New Manila International Airport (NMIA) — has undergone extensive review by various government agencies,” noted SMC President Ramon S. Ang.
With the Swiss challenge for the proposed project to end on July 31, 2019, Ang is confident that all requirements will be satisfied soon and they can break ground for the project by the end of 2019.
“If no other company puts forth a comparable offer to build one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in our country’s history, Filipinos could be enjoying more than just a world-class airport some five years after its groundbreaking,” said Ang.
He explained that, “nothing of this magnitude has ever been completed. But we know that, to truly solve our decades-lone problem of land and air congestion and to fully tap our economic potential, our country needs a future-proof solution.”
The sheer scale of the development can’t be downplayed. NMIA will feature four parallel runways with four times the constrained capacity of the existing intersecting runways of NAIA.
There is ample space to construct a high-capacity runway system and airport complex that will ensure the efficient handling of 100 million to 200 million passengers per year compared to the 30 million capacity of NAIA.
The entire development, consisting of world-class terminals and airport facilities, will be built on a 2,500 hectare property in Bulakan, Bulacan, adjacent to the Manila Bay.
Ang said the new terminal will be equipped with cutting edge technology including artificial intelligence and facial recognition capabilities that will allow the start of a passenger’s checking in and immigration process as soon as he is recognized by the cameras at the curbside of the airport.
Dubbed an aeropolis, it will have its own seaport, industrial, residential, commercial, and institutional zones. Also included in its design is the development of a new government center making vital government services more accessible to fast-growing areas in Central Luzon.
All this will be accessible from Metro Manila in less than thirty minutes, via interconnected expressways and rail — including a shoreline expressway that will traverse Manila Bay and head straight to NMIA.
“NMIA will mean many things for the Philippines. It will be a showcase of what Filipinos can do. It is a long overdue and much-needed solution to problems rooted in our aging and inefficient airports — where flight delays and congestion are the norm,” Ang said.
He added that, “facilities will be more than adequate, service levels will be consistently high, there will be zero delays caused by air, runway or taxiway congestion.”
Airport congestion is a serious problem that both airlines and passengers have to contend with. In the present NAIA, annual losses of airlines brought about by air traffic congestion are estimated to reach more than P10 billion per year. This will continue to grow if no new airport capacities are built.
On the other hand, productivity losses of passengers are estimated to amount to more than P15 billion per year.
Ang said the airport will also be equipped with existing technology that will prevent lightning strikes from disrupting operations. He said they have long installed equipment that deflect and diffuse lightning at SMC subsidiary Petron Corporation’s oil depots.
NMIA is envisioned not just to solve problems but to create opportunities. It is seen to add an estimated P400 billion to the country’s gross domestic product, and generate at least one million jobs.
It is also seen to help generate 40 million new tourism industry-related jobs by helping the country attract 20 million tourists from the 7.1 million arrivals last year — despite problems at the NAIA.
“The airport will be our biggest contribution to the Philippine economy, one that will generate millions of direct and indirect jobs; revive local industries, and give rise to new ones; accelerate our exports; attract foreign investment; revitalize tourism, and boost national pride,” said Ang.