The government has awarded seven of the country’s largest conglomerates an original proponent status to embark on a P102-billion program to upgrade the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) into a “world-class” regional aviation hub.

With this original proponent status from the Department of Transportation (DoTR)—which gives the Naia “superconsortium” the first crack at the project under a 15-year concession period— the Naia modernization program could commence as early as July next year, Naia consortium spokesperson Jimbo Reverente said in an interview.

The seven key proponents of the Naia superconsortium are Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc., the Ayalas’ AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp., tycoon Andrew Tan-led Alliance Global Group Inc., Lucio Tan-led Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp., Gotianun-led Filinvest Development Corp., Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Inc. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

These groups have teamed up with Changi Airport Consultants Pte. Ltd., a wholly owned subsidiary of Changi Airports International Pte. Ltd., for this project.

“We really support the multiairport strategy of the government,” Reverente said.

Most of the pending proposals with government are long-term solutions, Reverente said, citing private sector plans to build a new airport in Sangley Point (Cavite) and Bulacan.

Reverente noted that Clark Freeport, which has space for three independent runways and to serve 100 million passengers, could be a medium-to-long-term solution.

“Naia is a short- to medium-term solution,” he said.

Phase 1 of the Naia modernization project includes improvements and expansion of terminals in the current Naia land area.

The project was initially proposed at a cost of P350 billion but the government did not agree to a longer concession period. So the proposal was revised to pursue only phase 1 under a shorter concession period.

The upgrades are seen to elevate Naia to the level of major regional airports such as Changi in Singapore and Suvarnabhumi in Bangkok and transform it into a viable transit hub for the Asean region.

Following the grant of original proponent status, the proposal will be subject to review and approval by the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Board and to a Swiss challenge in accordance with the requirements of Republic Act No. 7718 or the Build-Operate-Transfer Law.

Taking into account the legal processes, Reverente said, “the earliest we can start is by July next year.”

“We are committed to see this project through and to follow the proper legal processes,” Reverente added.

“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 third year from the time we commence rehabilitation work,” he added.

For its part, the DoTR plans to develop multiple airports to enhance mobility and connectivity.

Based on its aviation road map, phase 1 is to improve and enhance primary gateways such as Naia and Clark International Airport while working to build new ones such as in Sangley and Bulacan.

The concession agreement for the new Bulacan airport is being finalized, while the legal framework for the implementation of the Sangley airport project will still have to be finalized by the provincial government of Cavite.

By: Doris Dumlao-Abadilla