DIVERSIFIED conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) is set to start to big-ticket infrastructure projects this year, as it works on completing the much delayed expressway project that would connect the three terminals of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) with a casino complex.

During the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) Business Journalism Seminar over the weekend in Tagaytay City, Alec Cruz, head of San Miguel’s tollway projects, told participants the conglomerate will soon commence the construction of P69.3-billion Metro Rail Transit Line 7 (MRT-7) and the P24.4-billion Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project.

“We recently got all the approvals. Our contractor has been selected and within the year we can start actual construction [of MRT-7],” Mr. Cruz said.

The MRT-7 project involves the financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the 23-kilometer elevated railway line with 14 stations from San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan to MRT-3 North Avenue in Quezon City; as well as a 22-km asphalt road from Bocaue Interchange of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) to the intermodal terminal in Tala in Caloocan City.

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) last week said the MRT-7 groundbreaking will be held on April 20 at the Quezon City Circle, after more than 7 years of delay. President Benigno S. C. Aquino III is expected to attend the event.

Like several of SMC’s ongoing infrastructure projects, the MRT-7 may face issues on the acquisition of right of way (ROW) and relocation of utilities.

“We expect we will be facing challenges in implementing this project. There are right-of way-issues. Hopefully, we have learned from past projects and hopefully the government can make adjustments,” Mr. Cruz said.

At the same time, Mr. Cruz said the conglomerate is expected to start work on the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project.

The consortium of SMC is developing the bulk water project with Korea Water Resources Corp. They will undertake the financing, design and construction, as well as operation and maintenance of conveyance and treatment facilities, and of the water source itself.

Likewise, San Miguel plans to complete the P15.52-billion NAIA Expressway this year after “significant delays in right-of-way acquisition” pushed back the timetable of the tollroad project.

The company will apply for a toll operation permit once it secures the certificate of substantial completion of the project around May.

“By April 26, we can expect those from [NAIA] Terminal 1 and 2 to go straight to Macapagal Avenue without passing the road in Quirino where the traffic is so heavy,” Mr. Cruz said.

“By July, you can use this up to [NAIA] Terminal 3 and up to the foot of Skyway. Because of still some pending ROW [acquisition], the actual connection to the Skyway will be made sometime in November,” he said.

The NAIA Expressway consists of a 7.75-km elevated expressway and a 2.22-km at-grade feeder road connecting NAIA’s three terminals as well as Skyway and the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway. Aside from the main viaduct, there will be 13 entrance and exit ramps as well as four connecting ramps, according to the project brief.

Phase 2A covers Macapagal Boulevard to MIA Road and NAIA Terminals 1 and 2, while Phase 2B runs from Domestic Road to Andrews Avenue, up to Sales Road and passing through Entertainment City.

Meanwhile, San Miguel has completed the extension of the runway at Boracay Airport, allowing bigger Airbus A320s to land and take off in the gateway to the country’s premiere tourist destination.

“When we get to use the bigger plane, we will be needing a bigger terminal. Right now, the terminal is still being developed,” Mr. Cruz said.

Led by its President Ramon S. Ang, the country’s largest food and beverage company started an aggressive diversification program in 2007 that saw the conglomerate make a series of acquisitions in attractive growth sectors such as infrastructure, fuel and oil, energy, telecommunications and banking.

Shares in SMC lost 65 centavos or 0.86% to close at P75.35 each last Friday.

17 April 2016
By Krista A. M. Montealegre, Senior Reporter with Daphne J. Magturo