A consortium of seven conglomerates said Thursday it obtained the original proponent status from the Transportation Department for the rehabilitation, upgrade, expansion, operation and maintenance of Ninoy Aquino International Airport for 15 years.

“We are very grateful to the DOTr and MIAA [Manila International Airport Authority] for granting the consortium the OPS as it triggers a series of steps we need to work on to make this project happen. The Naia Consortium looks forward to working closely with the DOTr and MIAA to progress this initiative. We are committed to see this project through and to follow the proper legal processes,” Naia Consortium spokesperson Jimbo Reverente said.

The consortium’s proposal will still be subject to review and approval by the National Economic and Development Authority Board and to a Swiss Challenge in accordance with the requirements of Republic Act No. 7718 or the Build-Operate-Transfer Law.

The consortium’s members are Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc., AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., Alliance Global Group Inc., AEDC, Filinvest Development Corp., JG Summit Holdings Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

The declaration of the original proponent is considered the first step in the rehabilitation and expansion of Naia which currently operates beyond its rated capacity.

The unsolicited proposal, which was submitted to the DOTr and MIAA on Feb. 12, 2018, aims to transform Naia into a regional airport hub and expand its capacity to meet the anticipated growth in passenger traffic.

“We remain focused on our commitment to deliver to our country a significantly improved Naia and are prepared to start work immediately after the airport is turned over to the consortium. Our fellow Filipinos can expect a better airport experience as early as the 3rd year from the time we commence rehabilitation work,” Reverente said.

The Naia project supports the government’s ‘Build, Build, Build’ program with its plan to develop the airport into a world-class facility and a regional air transport hub by upgrading its airside, landside and air navigation support―building on the gains already achieved by the DOTr in terms of improving the traffic of aircraft movements on its runways.

The P102-billion proposal involves expanding and interconnecting the existing terminals of Naia, upgrading airside facilities, developing commercial facilities to increase airline and airpot efficiencies, enhancing passenger comfort and experience and elevating the status of Naia as the country’s premier international gateway.

The project aims to increase capacity up to 100 million passengers per year from about 40 million passengers last year.

The upgrade aims to elevate Naia to the level of major regional airports such as Changi in Singapore and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok. It is also seen to become a viable transit hub for the Asean region.

Naia Consortium tapped Changi Airports International Pte. Ltd. of Singapore to provide technical support in the areas of master planning, operations optimization and commercial development.

The consortium submitted its proposal to the government on Feb. 12, ahead of Megawide GMR submission on March 1.

by Darwin G. Amojelar