DOTr, SMC in talks on Bulacan airport plan


By Miguel R. Camus | Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Department of Transportation is in ongoing talks with conglomerate San Miguel Corp. for the latter’s proposed “aerotropolis” in Bulacan province, keeping alive the possibility for a new international airport to eventually replace Manila’s congested gateway.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade told reporters that the government remained open to SMC’s proposed P700-billion international airport and city complex in Bulakan, Bulacan province. SMC, which submitted its offer last year, said this could be built within six years.

“We are now in talks within the context of an unsolicited proposal,” Tugade said.

An unsolicited offer, once approved by President Duterte, requires a Swiss challenge process. This is a type of bidding that allows rivals to submit competing offers. If another group submits a better offer, the original proponent, which in this case is SMC, has the right to match those terms and win the project.

Tugade said all unsolicited offers needed to meet certain conditions. Among these, a project should have no subsidies or any government guarantee, including a requirement for the government to shift air traffic to the new gateway.

“If those [conditions] are OK, then we’re ready to talk,” Tugade added.

Another consortium, led by Belle Corp. and the Solar Group, had offered to build a massive seaport, airport and industrial complex in a to-be-reclaimed portion of Sangley Point, Cavite.

DOTr officials, however, have noted that only SMC’s offer was so far being considered pending the submission of additional requirements by the Belle-Solar group.

Both offers are aimed at eventually replacing Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, which is operating well above its design capacity and is facing growth constraints because of runway congestion. Expansion options are also limited by its location within Metro Manila.

SMC’s Bulacan proposal, which will rise on a 2,500-hectare parcel of land, would have four parallel runways (pairs of 3.5 kilometers and 2.6 km) with a provision for two more if required, based on briefing materials it earlier showed to the DOTr.

Capacity would also increase to 100 million passengers a year, with the possibility of doubling this to 200 million passengers annually.

Naia, which handles more than 40 million passengers annually versus its design capacity of 30 million passengers, has two runways, which intersect.

According to SMC, air transport delays in Naia already cost airlines about P1.1 billion annually and this would increase to P3.8 billion by 2020 if the situation did not improve. For passengers, productivity losses also carry a hefty price tag: P2.8 billion today and P11 billion by 2020.

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