San Miguel to propose $10-B Manila airport

By Rosemarie Francisco, Reuters

Posted at Mar 25 2014 09:24 AM | Updated as of Mar 26 2014 02:43 AM

New facility to have 4 runways in an 800-ha property

MANILA (2ND UPDATE) - San Miguel Corp, the Philippines' most diversified conglomerate, is planning to present a proposal to the government soon to build a $10 billion airport in the capital, its president said on Tuesday.

Ramon Ang confirmed a Nikkei report that the company was set to present its plan for an alternative international airport in Manila next month. He confirmed the report in a text message to Reuters.

The group, which also owns a portion of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, announced last year its intention to build a new facility to complement the ageing Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). It delayed the plan pending questions on state policy on airline companies operating airports.

Any unsolicited infrastructure project proposal, like the one San Miguel is planning, is subject to government scrutiny and must first be presented to President Benigno Aquino, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said.

Upon the president's approval, it is then subjected to a Swiss challenge where other bidders are asked to compete for the project, with the original proponent allowed to match the best proposal.

Abaya said the government, with the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), is also studying the possibility of converting a former U.S. navy base at Sangley point in southwestern Cavite province into an alternative international airport. He said its location, just 20 minutes away from Manila, makes it ideal.

The Sangley airport project is part of a P2.3 trillion ($51 billion) transportation infrastructure plan JICA has presented to the government. The plan also involves building subway and rail networks.

"The NAIA is already getting saturated, there is no more time," Shizuo Iwata, project manager at JICA, said in a phone interview in Manila regarding the $9 billion airport project component of JICA's "Dream Plan". The plan is awaiting approval of an inter-agency committee chaired by Aquino.

According to the Nikkei report, San Miguel is planning to build an airport with four runways at an 800-ha property within the metropolis under a build-operate-transfer scheme. Ownership of the facility will be turned over to the government after 25 years.

That will be double the 400-hectare lot currently occupied by NAIA, which, with its single runway, exceeded its maximum annual capacity of 30 million passengers last year, according to the transportation department.