Ang pushes $14-B new airport proposal


By Cecilia Yap and Clarissa Batino (Bloomberg)

The battle of Philippine tycoons to build a new airport in the nation’s capital is heating up as San Miguel Corp. proposed a R700-billion ($14-billion) facility, rivaling an offer from a group led by billionaire Henry Sy.

The conglomerate has submitted a plan to the Department of Transportation with a provision for up to six runways in a 2,500-hectare property in Bulacan province, President Ramon Ang said in a phone interview. It will be built without any guarantee or a subsidy from the government, he said.

“We will finance everything, build everything by ourselves and take the risk,” Ang said yesterday. The government could sell the 600-hectare property where the current Manila airport complex is located for $20 billion and have the area converted into a new business district, he said.

President Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to boost infrastructure spending to a record, is also counting on private investors to upgrade facilities as Manila struggles to cope with rising flight traffic and road congestion. All-Asia Resources & Reclamation Corp., a venture of Sy’s Belle Corp. and Solar Group, in October said it proposed to spend $20 billion to build an airport and seaport near a naval and air base at Sangley Point, south of Manila.

The airport in Sangley could be up and running in four to five years’ time, All-Asia Resources said in a statement Thursday.

Air passengers passing through Manila will probably more than double to 140 million by 2035 from about 60 million in 2014, according to the International Air Transport Association. The present airport, with four terminals, is already handling traffic in excess of its capacity of 31 million fliers a year, according to IATA.

A bigger airport will help the nation’s travel and tourism industry, which accounted for 6.1 percent of the economy in 2016, up from 4.2 percent the previous year, according to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The government also plans to double the capacity of an airport at a former US military base north of Manila.

San Miguel, the Philippines’ largest company, plans to initially build four runways with a length of 3.5 kilometers and width of 600 meters that can serve 100 million passengers annually. Eventually, the project can be expanded to six runways and service 150 million passengers, according to the proposal.

Shares of San Miguel rose 1.5 percent to 106.40 pesos as of 11:47 a.m. in Manila Thursday, set for highest close since May, 2013. The airport proposal in Bulacan, which Transport Undersecretary Roberto Lim on Wednesday said is being reviewed, will also link with San Miguel’s elevated rail project and will complement the airport in the former Clark military airbase.

This is the second airport offer from San Miguel, which submitted a $10-billion plan to build an airport off Manila Bay in 2014.

In a related development, the government is urged to implement a multiairport system policy in the greater capital region while accelerating the development of Clark International Airport instead of the proposed dual airport system, indicating a preference for the development of Sangley Point instead of other unsolicited airport project proposals.

A policy brief on Air Transport Infrastructure presented by the Joint Foreign Chambers and the Philippine Business Groups has recommended a multi-airport system in the GCR on top of four other recommendations.

In coming up with this particular recommendation, the policy brief noted the previous study of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to develop Clark as alternative airport to NAIA while at the same time maximize the operations of NAIA until 2025 and also to look for an alternative site for a new airport that would be 25 kilometers or 30 minutes away from the existing gateway.