Aboitiz family eager to get into PPPs for airports, water

MANILA, Philippines - A holding company with investments in power, banking and food, Aboitiz Equity Ventures, is considering throwing its hat in the ring for the government's much anticipated public-private partnerships (PPP). 

"We also are keeping our eyes open for the PPPs (with) airports or maybe water as opportunities for us. At this point in time, it hasn't come up yet but we are definitely interested," AEV Chairman Jon Ramon Aboitiz told reporters after the company's annual stockholders' meeting on May 24. 

"We'd like to concentrate on other areas where we feel we have the expertise and there's large potential growth," said Aboitiz.

Too many parties have already expressed interest in the government's transportation and infrastructure projects, he explained. 

Major conglomerates like Ayala Corp., Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and San Miguel Corp. have all declared their intent to bid for road or rail projects.  

"It could both be distribution or bulk water. I think water is a very important component of all our needs. And it is something we would be very interested to look at when the opportunity does come up," said Aboitiz. 

The Ayala-led Manila Water Corp. has recently bagged a PPP deal on a bulk water project with the Cebu local government while MPIC-led Maynilad Water Services is likewise looking out for expansion opportunities.

Most of AEV's experience with water has been through its hydroelectric plants but the company has a distribution background from its power business which contains the 2nd and 3rd largest private utilities in the country.

Keen on airports

Aboitiz said AEV is interested in the Mactan international airport project. The airport is in Cebu, where the Aboitiz family first built their fortune. But he didn't rule out other airports which the government may privatize.

"We will either look at them by ourselves or with joint venture partners," he added. Thus far, San Miguel Corporation, which is rehabilitating the Caticlan airport, has expressed their interest in the public-private partnership airport contracts for Palawan, Bohol and Caraga (Agusan). 

"We believe that airports are going to be important gateways, just like ports are," said the AEV chairman whose family ran a shipping business for over a century. 

"More and more people are traveling by air because we have the low cost airlines that have really taken over. So I think that the airports are going to have to be modernized and get more efficient and operate 24 hours a day just like they do in other parts of the world," he added.

The Department of Transportation and Communications has outlined 6 PPP projects to develop airports but bid documents have yet to be released and the agency faces criticism for dragging its feet on much needed infrastructure projects. With ardent interest from several companies, it is now up to the government to meet demand with properly prepared projects. - Rappler.com