Airport giants from Singapore and South Korea—regarded among the best in the region—are seeking to cement their place in the future of aviation in Luzon, where the Philippines’ congested capital is located.

On Friday, a subsidiary of conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), which is proposing to build an P800-billion “aerotropolis” in Bulakan, Bulacan, about 50 kilometers northwest of Manila, signed a memorandum of understanding with Incheon International Airport, SMC president Ramon Ang said on Monday.

It follows a separate agreement among the seven conglomerates known as Naia (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Consortium and Singapore’s Changi Airports International to modernize Manila’s Naia, which suffers from overcapacity issues.

“The opportunities for aviation here are large, especially with our growing economy and the government’s commitment to its ‘Build Build Build’ infrastructure program,” Astro del Castillo, First Grade Finance Inc. managing director, said in an interview on Monday.

Changi Airport and Incheon Airport were named the best and second best airports, respectively, in the recent Skytrax World Airport Awards, which is based on passenger surveys.

Changi and Incheon are important hubs in their home countries, each serving over 60 million passengers annually and about 100 airlines.

Ang said in a text message the agreement with Incheon, which SMC had tapped in 2014 for an unsuccessful bid to operate and expand the Mactan Cebu International Airport, would be further discussed once SMC subsidiary San Miguel Holdings Corp. is awarded the project.

SMC’s offer, which involves the construction of a six-runway airport serving over 100 million passengers per year, still requires the final approval from the government.

A competitive bidding challenge is not expected to be completed until early 2019.

On the other hand, Naia Consortium is seeking a 15-year concession to increase passengers and flights in Naia, the Philippines’ busiest airport.

Under its P102-billion plan, it expects to bring up capacity in Naia to around 65 million passengers annually in four years.

Naia’s two runways are already strained as the airport served some 42 million passengers in 2017, well above its design limit of 31 million passengers per year.

Like SMC’s offer, Naia Consortium’s proposal has yet to be approved by the National Economic and Development Authority.

Changi Airport also joined two Naia Consortium members— JG Summit Holdings and Filinvest Development Corp.—in their bid to operate Clark International Airport, the main gateway of Pampanga located about 100 km north of Manila.

By Miguel Camus