SMC’s P 735-B Bulacan Airport is a go
The Philippines’ largest infrastructure project, so far,—San Miguel Corp.’s (SMC) P735-billion “airport city” in Bulacan province—will start construction not in the country but in a factory offshore, said Ramon Ang, president of SMC.
In an interview with the Inquirer, the billionaire said SMC had awarded contracts to overseas prefabricators, who would then ship the airport’s components that would be assembled in the country.
He did not provide details but said it would be “quick” to complete the airport during the next administration with the goal of eventually replacing Manila’s ageing Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).
The proverbial last man standing in the race to build a new air gateway for Manila, Ang explained the secrecy surrounding the project, including his refusal to give a definitive starting date.
“The moment we start talking, everyone will be ganging up on us,” said Ang, who heads one of the country’s largest and most powerful conglomerates with interests spanning food, drinks, energy and infrastructure.
Ang said they were in the process of securing the necessary permits after SMC missed a target to hold the groundbreaking ceremony in the first quarter of 2021.
He also suggested that rival airport projects, such as the P100-billion unsolicited proposal to rehabilitate Naia and the P500-billion Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) project of the Cavite local government, emerged to compete with SMC’s Bulacan aerotropolis.
The Department of Transportation halted the privatization of Naia this year after two private sector offers fell through.
The Cavite government also terminated talks on Jan. 26 with the consortium of China Communications Construction Co. Ltd. and Lucio Tan’s MacroAsia Corp. for the Sangley airport plan over supposed delays in submitting requirements during the pandemic.
Efforts to rebid the SPIA continue to face delays even as Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla expressed hopes to complete the process before the October 2021 deadline for the filing of certificates of candidacy for next year’s elections.
Ang said their airport project faced no election-related constraints because it was a private sector proposal.
“Our company is confident we can do everything we said we would do,” he said, pointing to SMC’s recent quarterly results showing a profit of P17.2 billion. “Big companies are suffering but we are okay.”
The Bulacan airport project earlier won the support of lawmakers and was granted a 50-year franchise to build and operate the facility in exchange for tax breaks and a revenue sharing scheme.
It would rise in a 2,500-hectare property in Bulakan and will have enough capacity to serve at least 100 million passengers yearly, or three times the size of Naia.
Fisherfolk in the area had opposed the project, saying their livelihoods would be affected, while conservation organization Oceana said the airport violated environmental laws.
The Supreme Court last January dismissed the writ of kalikasan petition filed by Oceana for lack of sufficient form and substance.
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