SMC's permit to build, operate Bulacan Airport hurdles Senate second reading

Katrina Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 05 2020 11:35 PM

Exterior design studies for SMC's proposed New Manila International Airport project in Bulakan, Bulacan. Photo: San Miguel Corp/Handout

MANILA - The Senate on Monday approved on second reading a bill that would allow San Miguel Corp. (SMC) to construct an airport in Bulacan that is expected to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), and provide jobs during the global pandemic.

The franchise for the construction of the San Miguel AeroCity was approved at around 11:30 p.m., an unusually late hour for plenary work in the Senate.

"There is a 3-day rule... There won’t be time for a bicam and ratification before the 14th break," Senate President Vicente Sotto III told reporters in a text message when asked why the chamber had to work overtime to pass the Bulacan Airport bill.

Under the law, Congress can only pass a bill on third reading at least 3 days after the measure was approved on second reading to ensure that lawmakers were given sufficient time to study the proposal.

Congress will go on a month-long break on October 17.

"SMC is already spending billions for the country and further delay is regressive to their investment," Sotto said.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri called the project "a no brainer."

"The government will get a world-class airport at no cost," he said.

Under the deal, SMC will build and operate the Bulacan airport for 50 years before it turns over the facility to the government.

In exchange for its P740-billion investment, the SMC AeroCity will be exempted from "any and all direct and indirect taxes and fees" while it is constructing the airport over a 10-year period.

Sen. Joel Villanueva - a native of Bulacan - described the new gateway as a "dream come true" for his province.

"We'll be able to produce at least a million jobs. We're not even talking about indirect jobs," Villanueva earlier said.

The 2,500-hectare development in Bulacan - estimated to be 3 times larger than NAIA - is expected to generate thousands of jobs, build more road networks, and help land in nearby areas appreciate in value, Senate Committee on Public Service Grace Poe said in plenary.

The Senate is expected to tackle the bill on third and final reading next week.