MANILA, Philippines — With the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) set to be privatized, the builder of the soon to be largest gateway in the Philippines is accelerating land development with the goal of starting civil works next year.

San Miguel Aerocity Inc. (SMAI) has reached at least 70 percent completion of land development for the New Manila International Airport (NMIA).

Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista said that at this rate, SMAI may finish land development by the first quarter of 2024 and could begin the construction of NMIA’s facilities right after.

“Land development is almost 70 percent to 75 percent complete and we are expecting this will be completed by the end of the year or early first quarter of next year. After that, the group of Mr. Ramon Ang can start construction of runways and passenger terminal buildings,” Bautista said in a ANC interview.

In a meeting, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president and CEO Ramon Ang told Bautista that NMIA is progressing as scheduled.

Bautista believes that the new airport located in Bulacan can operate partially before President Marcos steps down in 2028. “We are optimistic that the Bulacan airport will be operational, maybe even partly, before the end of the term of President Marcos,” he said.

SMAI, a subsidiary of San Miguel Holdings Corp. – the infrastructure arm of SMC – is working on completing by 2027 what is set to be the largest airport in the Philippines.

SMC is spending P735.6 billion to build the NMIA, the first phase of which is expected to facilitate around 35 million passengers a year and create more than one million jobs in central Luzon.

At the same time, Bautista said flight movement at NAIA would increase to up to 50 an hour once its facilities are upgraded by a private concessionaire.

The winning bidder for the operations and maintenance of NAIA will be required to acquire new solutions and speed up airport procedures to facilitate as many passengers in an hour.

“There is no more space for runway developments for NAIA. What we plan to do is to improve the operations by allowing up to 48 to 50 movements per hour. Right now, aircraft movement is 38 to 40 only. With the adoption of new technologies and implementation of new processes, we should be able to increase this to at least 48 movements,” Bautista said.

Last week the National Economic and Development Authority approved the DOTr’s proposal to upgrade NAIA through a solicited bidding, effectively denying the P267 billion plan to renovate the airport filed by a consortium of six conglomerates and a foreign partner.

With this, the DOTr will give the future concessionaire of NAIA a period of 15 years to complete the rehabilitation estimated to cost P170.6 billion.