Tycoons To Join NAIA Rehab Bidding

The Gokongwei family’s JG Summit Holdings, Aboitiz Equity Ventures and Ayala Corp. are keen on a P75-billion contract to operate and develop Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport, the country’s busiest air gateway that has been dubbed the “crown jewel” of Philippine airport deals.

The Naia development project recently hurdled the National Economic and Development Authority’s Investment Coordination Committee. Seeking the approval of the Neda board, which is chaired by President Aquino, is the next step.

Interest in the premier gateway has been ramping up partly due to recent statements coming from the transportation department that work at a new international airport in Sangley Point, Cavite—a project aimed at replacing the congested Naia— might not be implemented within the term of President Aquino.

Earlier, San Miguel Corp., Manuel V. Pangillinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp. and Megawide Construction Corp. said they were keen on a contract to operate NAIA, which handles more than 32 million passengers annually.

“It is ‘the’ asset in the airport sector so we should definitely look at that,” Ayala managing director John Eric Francia said. “It’s a major strategic asset in a very important sector which affects a lot of things like tourism.”

Bach Johann Sebastian, JG Summit chief strategist and senior vice president, confirmed in a text message that the company was interested in the Naia project, as did Román Azanza III, Aboitiz first vice president for business development.

JG Summit, mainly involved in airlines, property development, food and beverage as well as petrochemicals, and Aboitiz Equity, whose portfolio is mainly focused on power generation and banking, have been looking at more Public Private Partnership (PPP) infrastructure deals to diversify their respective businesses.

Ayala, San Miguel, Metro Pacific and Megawide are active participants in the Aquino administration’s PPP program, having each bagged one or more big-ticket deals that have been rolled out over the last four years.

The Naia development project aims to transform the Philippines’ main gateway “into a world-class modern airport facility.” The private partner is also expected to upgrade existing terminals to increase capacity and handle O&M activities.

The companies mentioned have already expressed their interest in developing the country’s commercial aviation sector, which presents opportunities for growth given that the Philippines is an archipelago.

On international travel, the government has been boosting efforts to lure more visitors with catchy slogans like “It’s more fun in the Philippines.”

In 2013, the conglomerates participated in a bid for the contract to expand and operate the Mactan Cebu International Airport, which was bagged by a consortium between Megawide and India’s GMR Infrastructure.

The government is currently bidding out the contracts for the Bacolod-Silay, Iloilo, Davao, Laguindingan and New Bohol airports in a deal that has lured SMC, Metro Pacific, Aboitiz, JG Summit and Megawide apart from international players.

Source: Miguel R. Camus, Philippine Daily Inquirer

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