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Upgrade of Naia seen to start in early 2020

/ 05:14 AM September 02, 2019

A proposal backed by the Philippines’ biggest conglomerates to modernize and expand the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) in Manila could happen by early 2020.

The private sector group known as Naia Consortium had hoped to start upgrades this month. After a series of back and forth negotiations with the government lasting more than a year, the proposal is now with the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) and is up for potential approval in the coming months.

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Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade told reporters they were maintaining a target to launch a Swiss Challenge, a bidding process that allows rivals to submit competing offers, within the year. A Swiss Challenge could take at least 60 days to conclude.

He said the Department of Transportation could award the project before the end of the year or by the first quarter of 2020. Naia Consortium can only begin work on the project after it wins an award.

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“It’s now with Neda. How fast it will go [through the Neda approval process] I cannot dictate,” Tugade told reporters last week.

Naia Consortium’s offer, which was first submitted in February 2018, combines a 15-year operations-and-maintenance period and the development of added capacity to alleviate congestion in Naia’s passenger terminals and runways.

Based on its offer, it will increase capacity to support 65 million passengers annually versus Naia’s design capacity of 31 million passengers a year. In 2018, Naia handled 45 million passengers. Moreover, hourly takeoff and landing movements will rise to 52 movements, up by a third.

The proposal also includes a “people mover” that will link the passenger terminals in the sprawling airport complex. The solution was aimed at providing relief to the congested gateway where air traffic delays are a frequent occurrence.

Naia Consortium’s members include Ayala Corp., Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Alliance Global Group Inc., Asia Emerging Dragon, Filinvest Development, JG Summit and Metro Pacific Investments Corp. Its technical partner is Singapore’s Changi Airports International.

For now, Naia Consortium’s P102-billion proposal is set to be reviewed by the Neda-Investment Coordination Committee. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the Neda-ICC could hold a meeting within this month.

After this, it will require the approval of the Neda Board, which is chaired by President Duterte.

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The consortium was required to resubmit its offer to conform with the language used in the concession of the Clark International Airport in Pampanga province.

The Clark Airport contract required the private sector to take on more risks, including the removal of the usual compensation triggers should the project be affected by a change in future laws.

The offer is among several projects aimed at easing congestion in Manila and nearby provinces.

Last Aug. 14, the Department of Transportation awarded the P735-billion New Manila International Airport project in Bulacan province to proponent San Miguel Corp.

On Aug. 16, a consortium that includes JG Summit, Filinvest Development and a unit of Changi assumed operations of Clark Airport. This comes ahead of the opening of a new passenger terminal that will at least double capacity to eight million passengers a year by the middle of 2020. —MIGUEL R. CAMUS

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