It seems the GMR-Megawide consortium is doubling down on the Mactan Cebu International Airport with a new P208-billion offer in the wake of a still uncertain air gateway policy for the greater Manila area.

Recall that the competing mega-budget proposals of GMR-Megawide and JG Summit-Filinvest for Clark International Airport in Pampanga were rejected by the Department of Transportation. (Still no certainty on separate offers in Bulacan and Sangley Point, Cavite for an eventual replacement to Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport.)

Roberto Lim, who recently resigned as aviation undersecretary, left with little if not vague direction when he said the greater Manila area should adopt a “multi” airport scheme instead of the long-standing dual airport policy.

It does make sense to focus on a project that carries more certainty such as the MCIA that GMR-Megawide is already expanding and will be operating through 2039 (add another 25 years if its offer is accepted).

It’s a massive undertaking that would involve land reclamation, a brand-new runway and a third passenger terminal over 50 years. The idea is to avoid congestion headaches like the ones in Naia.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of GMR-Megawide’s proposal is the unprecedented takeover of airside operations, which typically refers to the area after security and passport control. These are currently handled by the government in Cebu and all major airports around the country.

We say it’s remarkable because it comes at a time when the government had signaled a general bias against private sector exposure in big-ticket projects.

Call it what you want— the government calls it the hybrid public private partnership (PPP) scheme—but the recent fate of several PPPs and even Clark Airport is proof of this.

Under GMR-Megawide’s proposal, handling airside operations means it can act faster on crucial rehabilitation such as repairing the runway and building a new one since it would no longer be constrained by the government’s procurement process.

It would also allow the company to modernize traffic control facilities.

GMR-Megawide sees other advantages, especially given the long-term nature of its plans, which would extend over several more six-year administrations.

“By submitting our proposal, we can relieve the government from the burden of planning ahead. We can do it for them,” GMR Megawide director Louie Ferrer told Biz Buzz.

The next question, of course, is how the government treats this latest idea from the private sector. As we say here, abangan!

14 June 2017
By Miguel R. Camus