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Conglomerates appeal for fast decision on NAIA proposals

MANILA, Philippines – Seven of the country's largest conglomerates are seeking the government's "urgent" decision on unsolicited proposals to develop and rehabilitate the dilapidated Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

NAIA, designed to handle only 31 million passengers, is expected to accommodate 47 million in 2019. It accommodated a total of 42 million passengers in 2017, data from the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) showed.

"It is urgent for the country to get this project going because doing nothing as a result of a long approval process will set all of us back," Jimbo Reverente, spokesperson for the so-called "super consortium," said in a statement on Sunday, March 11.

The consortium had submitted the first unsolicited proposal for NAIA's upgrade last February 12.

It is composed of Aboitiz InfraCapital Incorporated, AC Infrastructure Holdings Corporation, Alliance Global Group Incorporated, Asia's Emerging Dragon Corporation, Filinvest Development Corporation, JG Summit Holdings Incorporated, and Metro Pacific Investments Corporation.

Their P350-billion, 35-year NAIA development proposal is being challenged by that of listed Megawide Construction Corporation and its Bangalore-based partner GMR Infrastructure Limited, which was submitted last March 1.

GMR-Megawide's proposal provides a lower project cost and shorter concession period compared to that of the consortium. GMR-Megawide's unsolicited proposal to rehabilitate, develop, operate, and maintain NAIA costs $3 billion (P155.97 billion) and spans 18 years.

'National asset'

Reverente said his group would like to start expanding NAIA's terminals and adding more flights as soon as possible since the airport is a "strategic national asset that needs upgrading without delay."

"The present approval process takes time, months to more than a year. The country would be well served if we can have a better NAIA soonest," he added.

According to the consortium, the actual work for the first wave of immediate expansion would take 24 months.

"The government can expedite the approvals allowed under existing rules. That will be the best scenario. Once we complete our short-term expansion and upgrading plans, passenger convenience will be immediately felt. There will be more space for everybody and that is just the first step," Reverente said.

If the initial NAIA upgrades are completed by 2020, Reverente said "tourism can become so much stronger that it can be a 3rd economic pillar after the BPO (business process outsourcing) and OFW (overseas Filipino worker) remittances."

He added that "there is so much riding on NAIA's upgrade."

To ensure the consortium delivers, Reverente said his group brought in Changi International Airport, reputedly the world's best airport manager, as a technical partner. 

"So if you are awed by the efficiency of the Singapore airport under Changi, wait for us to show you that the Philippines can also step up," he said. – Rappler.com