DOTC eyes bundling of smaller airports for privatization

By: Miguel R. Camus, June 20th, 2013 11:18 PM

Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya FILE PHOTO

The government is considering the privatization of operating airports in Davao, Bacolod and Iloilo in a single package, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said on Wednesday.

Abaya said bundling smaller provincial airports would make them more attractive to large international players as it would give them the scale they required.

The Department of Transportation and Communication is currently in the process of bidding out the P17.5-billion Mactan-Cebu International Airport. The project, the agency’s first airport public private partnership (PPP) deal, has already drawn most of the country’s largest conglomerates and their foreign partners, including Singapore’s Changi Airport and South Korea’s Incheon Airport.

“If you want the Changis and Incheons of this world to come (to the Philippines), an airport like Cebu-Mactan would be their smallest. So if you bid out anything smaller there will be no takers,” Abaya said during a roundtable discussion with the Inquirer Business Section.

Bringing in known players to run airports efficiently is in line with the government’s goal of boosting tourist arrivals to 10 million by 2016 from about 4.3 million last year.

Taken together, the air gateways in Davao, Bacolod and Iloilo handled about 5.5 million passengers in 2011, government statistics showed. This is comparable to the six million passengers that Mactan-Cebu Airport handled in the same period.

“You have to package it. If we bid out Bacolod, Iloilo and Davao, the winner will operate all three,” Abaya said.

The DOTC is also considering bidding out the operations of upcoming or completed provincial airports in Panglao in  Bohol, the newly opened Laguindingan near Cagayan de Oro, Puerto Princesa in Palawan, Caraga in Northeast Mindanao and Tacloban in Leyte.

Abaya said the DOTC had yet to decide on the privatization of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), Metro Manila’s main air terminal, which had been suffering from congestion problems. Abaya said Naia handled about 8 million passengers per year.

He said this option remained in the cards, even under a dual airport system, which referred to maintaining Naia and Clark International Airport in Pampanga as gateways to Metro Manila.

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