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Naia rehab hopes dim

Gov’t finally turns down Megawide offer
/ 04:50 AM January 16, 2021

A major rehabilitation plan for Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) was thrown into limbo after the Duterte administration turned down a second private sector offer that would have solved congestion at the country’s main gateway.

The Inquirer learned the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) board affirmed the revocation of the Megawide Construction Corp.-GMR Infrastructure consortium’s primary rights, otherwise called an original proponent status (OPS), to redevelop and operate Naia at no cost to the government

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The decision was made during a Miaa board meeting on Thursday, a source with knowledge of the matter said.

The Department of Transportation and Miaa board officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment while Megawide chair and CEO Edgar Saavedra said in a statement on Friday the venture had received no formal communication from the government.

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The circumstances mirrored the consortium’s situation last Dec. 4 when it was initially kept in the dark after the Miaa board abruptly revoked its OPS for the Naia rehabilitation.

Saavedra indicated in the statement the consortium was resigned to the final outcome over its P109-billion offer to transform the aging Naia into a world-class facility.

“We already submitted our motion for reconsideration but if it is still not enough to meet government requirements, we will respect their decision and move on to other projects that have equal significance,” Saavedra said.

“We truly wish the government and other interested parties success in the transformation of Naia,” he said.

“We sincerely hope for its redevelopment and soon. It cannot just be a band-aid solution, but a real, first-world transformation that will benefit Filipinos and the entire Philippine airport system,” Saavedra added.

The Miaa board initially gave no reason for rejecting Megawide-GMR’s proposal last Dec. 4.

It was only during a Dec. 17 Senate hearing when they pointed to Megawide’s lack of financial capacity. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said during the hearing the revocation of the OPS was not yet final.

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But as early as Nov. 20, Megawide-GMR submitted additional financial documents it said met the government’s requirements. It was not immediately clear if these were considered during the Miaa board meeting this week.

A construction and engineering company, Megawide had also partnered with GMR to operate and develop the Mactan Cebu International Airport in 2014.

The venture planned a major overhaul of Naia, which was opened in 1981 and suffered from worsening congestion before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proposal includes linking its passenger terminals via a monorail system, expanding its terminal capacity and improving runway operations to increase flights under a 25-year concession.

Megawide-GMR won the rights to Naia last July following the unsuccessful negotiations between tycoons-backed Naia Consortium and the government over a two-year period.

Their proposal is known as an unsolicited offer, which usually comes from the private sector and is allowed under the Build Operate Transfer Law.

The process, however, has been associated with poor transparency and it was for this reason the previous Aquino administration shunned unsolicited proposals, preferring instead an open bidding process under its Public Private Partnership (PPP) Program.

The redevelopment of Naia itself was among the PPP projects carried over from the past administration but was scrapped under President Duterte, prompting private companies to take the unsolicited route.

Under the BOT law, the rejection of Megawide-GMR’s offer allows the government to entertain other private players seeking the coveted project or upgrade the airport on its own.

It was not clear how much resources can be allocated for the latter option since the Naia rehabilitation is listed as among the flagship Build Build Build projects to be funded by the private sector.

Waiting in line after Megawide-GMR are Philippine Airport Ground Support Solutions Inc. (PAGSS) and food, drinks and infrastructure conglomerate San Miguel Corp.

SMC said there would be no major redevelopment of Naia and instead pitched a 10-year operations and maintenance-only contract.

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