MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The infrastructure unit of the Aboitiz group submitted a P148-billion unsolicited proposal to upgrade, expand, operate, and maintain 4 major Philippine regional airports over a 35-year concession period.
The 4 regional gateways – Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Laguindingan Airport, and New Bohol International Airport in Panglao – are key entry points into the Visayas and northern Mindanao.
“Not only will none of the airports require any form of subsidy, the combined potential of the 4 regional gateways results in overall gains for both the government and the local economy,” Sabin Aboitiz, president and chief executive officer of Aboitiz InfraCapital Incorporated, said in a statement on Wednesday, March 7.
Aboitiz said that the Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, and Laguindingan Airport “are already operating above capacity and require urgent rehabilitation.”
Meanwhile, the Bohol airport “is eyed to open the island further to the international tourism market as part of the national tourism strategy.” (READ: 5 regional airport PPP deals attract more honchos)
The group’s P148-billion multi-phased project aims to transform these 4 gateways into “world-class airports,” Aboitiz said.
Should the government award the project to Aboitiz InfraCapital within the year, it said it could start working with the relevant government and community stakeholders to improve operations and passenger experience in 2019.
Aboitiz added that necessary major upgrades and capacity expansions could be completed as early as 2021.
Other interested parties
These 4 small, regional airports, along with the Davao airport, were supposed to be auctioned off via the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.
It was in 2014 when these 5 airport deals – cumulatively worth some P108.9 billion – were rolled out under the administration of former president Benigno Aquino III. (READ: PH sticks to bundled plan for 5 airports)
But the Aquino administration failed to bid out the PPP airport projects, which were bundled into two packages.
The administration of President Rodrigo Duterte then decided to unbundle the airports and bid these out individually.
The PPP auction, however, was canceled in 2017, with Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade saying his department would just use funds from the General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the national budget. (READ: 5 regional airports removed from PPP pipeline)
The Aboitiz group was one of the prospective bidders that were supposed to participate in the PPP airport auction.
Other prospective bidders were Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC), San Miguel Holdings Corporation, Megawide Construction Corporation, Filinvest Development Corporation, as well as Asia’s Emerging Dragon – a firm built by Lucio Tan, John Gokongwei, Andrew Gotianun, Henry Sy Sr, George Ty, and Alfonso Yuchengco.
Karim Garcia, executive vice president for business development of MPIC, said his firm is “very bullish and enthusiastic” when it comes to airport projects.
“For as long as there is airport opportunity in this country, Metro Pacific will be there. We are looking at the regional airports – preferably the bundled ones. But I don’t know what the current administration is thinking now when it comes to those airports,” Garcia had told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference in Makati City.
The Visayas and Mindanao have been experiencing significant economic growth in the last few years and regional airports have struggled to follow the pace of the development, said Aboitiz.
The Iloilo and Bacolod airports have been operating for 10 years, while Laguindingan started operating in 2013 but has been operating above its capacity since its opening year. – Rappler.com