San Miguel plans bridge to Boracay
CONGLOMERATE San Miguel Corp. is keen on scaling up its stake in Caticlan—the gateway to Boracay Island—by building a game-changing 1.9-kilometer toll bridge that will connect the world-famous beach community to the mainland.
In an interview with the Inquirer, SMC president Ramon S. Ang said that the infrastructure project, which would be up to the local government unit to award to a private sector partner, was estimated to cost $100 million (about P4.6 billion at current exchange rates).
“We proposed the idea for them to bid out. For us, it’s okay if there are other bidders,” Ang said.
At present, tourists and cargo can only move in and out of Boracay using boats from the jetty port of Caticlan. In recent years that tourism has boomed on the island, garbage disposal has been difficult as well.
Ang said the connectivity project would be for the convenience of tourists. “They can all live in Caticlan and enjoy the view in Boracay, which is now so congested and has a lot of sewerage problems,” he pointed out.
With the bridge, Boracay would be decongested because it would be possible for tourists to find cheaper accommodations in Caticlan, Ang said, adding that to date, a backpacking tourist could get lodging in Caticlan for only P1,000 a night.
“We think what’s best is if everybody will stay and eat in Caticlan, go to Boracay to enjoy the beach,” Ang said, adding that this would help ease sewerage problems on the island.
Caticlan is part of the first-class municipality of Malay in Aklan. This is also where the Godofredo P. Ramos Airport, which the San Miguel group is upgrading under a privatization deal, is located. This is the nearest airport to Boracay, which became famous for its powdery-white sand and breath-taking sunsets.
Ang said the upgrade of the airport has been finished and what remained to be constructed was a new terminal. A temporary terminal is being set up and would be done in six months to accommodate the volume of tourists going to Caticlan.
The Caticlan airport could now accommodate big jets, Ang said.
In 2011, SMC announced a $300-million investment not only to upgrade the Caticlan airport itself but to construct new amenities like a 5,000-room budget hotel, a world-class convention center and a retail complex that would showcase local souvenirs and a row of seafood restaurants.
The upgrading of the airport is seen to make Boracay a more affordable holiday destination for many Filipinos as the influx of more regional and domestic flights will pull down airfare costs per passenger.
The SMC conglomerate controls the Caticlan airport concession through TransAire Development Holdings Corp. Apart from constructing a bigger airport passenger terminal and extending the runway, the rehabilitation program includes the improvement of the road network as well as the upgrading of airport facilities and air traffic control aids. Upon completion, the Caticlan airport is envisioned to be at par with the best airports in the region.
San Miguel, which has transformed into an energy-based conglomerate from a food and beverage group in less than a decade, expects to further evolve into an infrastructure-driven enterprise with its infrastructure group estimated to become a $20-billion business by 2020.
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