Conglomerate Ayala Corp. said it has finalized a consortium that would bid for the government’s next major airport public-private partnership (PPP) project, the operations and development of Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Jose Rene Almendras, CEO of Ayala unit AC Infrastructure Holdings, said in a recent briefing that the company had agreed to tap three international airport operators for its bid to win the P74.6-billion PPP deal.

Naia, the country’s busiest air gateway, is largely considered the “crown jewel” of airport projects.

“In the event that it is going to be bid out, our consortium includes three airport operators,” Almendras said. While declining to name the groups, he said Ayala would be ready as soon as the Department of Transportation invites bidders to join.

The Naia PPP project was approved by the board of the National Economic and Development Authority, chaired by President Duterte, last September. The DOTr, as implementing agency, has not yet set any date when an invitation to bid would be issued to interested groups.

There were scant details on what the PPP involved. According to the PPP Center, the contract would include the upgrade of “operational facilities” for landside and airside components. The winning bidder was also expected to build new capacity so Naia can handle more passengers.

The airport complex’s four passenger terminals handled close to 37 million people last year compared to its design capacity of just 31 million passengers. The government has also been moving to address air congestion given limitations of Naia’s runways.

Almendras said their partners were experts at addressing issues in Naia. “What we’ve done is we’ve put together a consortium of solutions providers,” he said.
So far, some of the country’s biggest conglomerates have expressed their interest to participate. These included San Miguel Corp., JG Summit Holdings, Metro Pacific, the Lucio Tan group (Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp.) and Megawide Construction Corp.

The Naia project would be the third airport PPP to be rolled out since the PPP program was started by the Aquino administration six years ago. The contract to expand and operate the Mactan Cebu International Airport was won in 2014 by a venture between Megawide and India’s GMR Infrastructure. The government has also rolled out a PPP to develop and operate five provincial gateways: Bacolod-Silay, Iloilo, Davao, Laguindingan and New Bohol. The Neda board recently decided to “unbundle” the airport projects and PPP Center executive director Ferdinand Pecson confirmed last week that a new qualification process would be scheduled.

Other airport projects in the pipeline might include the development of Clark International Airport in Pampanga province.

In recent months, two unsolicited proposals for an eventual Naia replacement have emerged. SMC offered to build a new international airport in Bulacan province while a group backed by the Tieng and Sy families offered to reclaim land for an airport, seaport and industrial estate in offshore Sangley, Cavite.

19 December 2016
By Miguel R. Camus