Gov't to tap private sector for airport projs despite IATA warning

By Lawrence Agcaoili, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 24 2012 08:28 AM | Updated as of Nov 24 2012 04:28 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration is bent on pursuing major airport infrastructure all over the country with the help of private companies amid the warning made by the International Air Transport Association (IATA) for countries in Asia Pacific not to rely heavily on private investments.

Transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told participants of an economic forum sponsored by the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines (EJAP) that several airport projects would be undertaken through the public private partnership (PPP) scheme.

Abaya said the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is now rolling out the construction of the new terminal building for the Mactan-Cebu International Airport to accommodate an additional eight million passengers.

Abaya pointed out that the proposed passenger terminal would complement the operations of the existing terminal. “We will be contracting out to private sector partners the operations and maintenance of this airport” he said.

Aside from the Mactan-Cebu International Airport, the DOTC chief said the government would also bid out the operations and maintenance contracts for the new Bohol Airport that would replace the Tagbiliran Airport, the Laguindingan Airport in Misamis Oriental in Northern Mindanao, and the Puerto Princesa Airport in Palawan.

Abaya said the Laguindingan Airport is now just a few months away from completion and would start operation first quarter next year while the Puerto Princesa Airport is being upgraded and improved to meet the surge in tourist arrivals.

Abaya pointed out that the DOTC is closely coordinating with Tourism secretary Ramon Jimenez to ensure that the agency’s infrastructure projects support strategy for the Department of Tourism.

He made an assurance that there will be no changing of rules in implementing and fast-tracking the multi-billion transport infrastructure projects under the government’s PPP program.

“We have conducted open and transparent biddings in full view of the public; every step of the way is open to media coverage. The DOTC has published more than 20 full-page ads of all our projects that are up for bid – and more will be put out before the year ends,” Abaya said.

According to him, now that the country is on the road to investment grade because of the “Daang Matuwid” policy of President Aquino, the private sector should be “more active and creative in helping the government in nation-building.”

Abaya also guarantees the private sector and other organizations who want to participate in the PPP projects to expect a fair and level playing field.

Early this month, IATA director general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler cautioned countries in Asia Pacific including the Philippines about too much private investment in the development of airport infrastructure to support demand growth in the region.