Seven of the country’s biggest conglomerates confirmed they were looking at rehabilitating and redeveloping the Ninoy Aquino International Airport— the strongest signal yet from the private sector on the pressing need to upgrade the country’s busiest air gateway.
The companies included Andrew Tan’s Alliance Globe Group Inc., Ayala Corp., Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc., Manuel V. Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp., Gotianun-led Filinvest Development Corp., Gokongwei-led JG Summit Holdings Inc. and Lucio Tan’s LT Group.
Two of those groups, JG Summit and LT Group, own the country’s two largest commercial air carriers, Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines, respectively.
The seven companies responded to earlier reports tagging them as part of a “super consortium” looking at rehabilitating Naia, which is suffering from worsening congestion. Naia, through its four passenger terminals, serves more than 42 million passengers annually, or about 40 percent above its design capacity.
They confirmed their potential participation in separate, similarly worded statements. Without confirming talks with each other, each group said discussions were still exploratory and no formal agreement had been signed.
A source noted that the groups were bound by confidentiality agreements.
“It is exciting and will benefit the Filipino people and the economy significantly,” the source said.
The groups are expected to submit an unsolicited offer, which would later require a competitive challenge.
The cooperation among the country’s tycoons in the aviation sector is at a scale unseen since 1993 when taipans Henry Sy Sr., Lucio Tan, George Ty, John Gokongwei, Andrew Gotianun and Alfonso Yuchengo joined forces in an unsuccessful bid for the Naia Terminal 3 project.
It also comes amid an uncertain environment for new air gateways serving Metro Manila and nearby areas.
The Duterte administration has committed to expand Clark International Airport in Pampanga province, a Naia alternative. But Naia’s fate remains hanging.
The Department of Transportation last year put on hold a P75-billion public-private partnership (PPP) project to develop and privatize operations of Naia.
There are also calls from the private sector for Naia’s eventual closure, to be replaced by either San Miguel Corp.’s proposal to build a new international airport in Bulacan province or the Belle-Solar Group’s project in Sangley Point, Cavite.
Between the two, SMC’s proposal had advanced, with the group being awarded an original proponent status for its new airport project.
SMC would still need to clear the approval of the board of the National Economic and Development Authority for its P700-billion “aerotropolis,” which it said could be finished in six years.