MANILA, Philippines - Can they or can they not?
At first, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) decided they -- local or foreign groups with current stakes in airlines -- can not join the bidding for the Mactan-Cebu International expansion project. Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya cited inherent conflict-of-interest issues.
Then came the protests from some Cabinet members, especially those among Abaya's peers in the economic cluster. In a previous correspondence sent to Abaya, a high-level Cabinet member cited current efforts to attract foreign investors in crucial infrastructure projects under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
Thus, on Monday, January 28, the day set for the project's pre-qualification conference, Abaya announced that this step in the project's bidding process is moved to February 13.
The DOTC also moved the submission and opening of the qualification documents to February 27 from the earlier February 18 deadline. DOTC published these original dates and bidding rules last December.
With these changes are uncertainties if the original target of awarding the contract to the winning bidder in September will still be met.
Abaya told Rappler the changes in schedule would give the bidders who requested for extension more time to firm up their partnerships in their respective consortia.
He said they are also going back to the drawing board to study their bidding rules and make room for groups with stakes in airlines.
Earlier, JG Summit and San Miguel Corp, two conglomerates that control local carriers Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines (PAL), protested their exclusion from the bid.
Among those who are interested in the airport project are the consortium of Ayala Corp and Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc, as well as Metro Pacific Investments Corp.
There were also reportedly previous efforts of top government officials to reach out to foreign investors, including those that manage Changi airport in Singapore, as proof of investor confidence in the Philippines.
In September 2012, the Aquino administration approved a P17-billion contract for the expansion of the Mactan airport terminals to cope with increasing tourist arrivals.
The winning bidder for this build-operate-transfer project will be granted a 20-year concession.
The first phase of the project will involve the construction of a new passenger terminal building with a capacity of 8 million passengers a year, as well as the operation and maintenance of the old and new facilities.
The Mactan airport is the country's second largest international airport, serving 14% of the country's passenger traffic or 5.7 million passengers a year. The airport serves as a gateway to tourist destinations around the Visayas. - Rappler.com
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