New international airport operators
With six reputable consortiums expressing interest in participating in the bidding for the rehabilitation of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), the upgrading of the country’s premier international gateway may finally come to fruition.
Two proposals with the same objective were made during the Duterte administration, but they were turned down for some technical and financial reasons.
The Department of Transportation had set Dec. 27 as the deadline for the submission of bids for the P170.6-billion Naia project, with the award to be made possibly a month later.
In the meantime, construction work is ongoing in San Miguel Corp.’s P735-billion proposed New Manila International Airport in Bulacan, which is targeted to start operations in 2027.
As designed, upon its completion, it would be able to handle up to 100 million passenger traffic annually.
Another international gateway being planned is the $11-billion Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA) in Cavite whose construction had been awarded to a consortium led by the Yuchengco group.
When the SPIA becomes operational, it would be able to provide for an annual passenger capacity of up to 75 million.
The proposed airports in Bulacan and Cavite are envisioned to ease Naia’s heavy passenger load capacity, which has adversely affected the quality of its services and, as a result, put it in a bad light in the international travel market.
The business expertise and financial muscle of the consortiums behind the Naia upgrade and new airports inspire confidence that once completed, their facilities and services would be on a par with other gateways in the world of equivalent size.
The commercial aspects of their operation, e.g., processing of outgoing and incoming passengers, unloading of baggage and maintenance of public facilities, are expected to be well-organized and efficient.
But unlike Naia, the new airport operators would not be subject to stringent government rules on procurement of materials and services and would therefore be able to make quick fund disbursements when the need arises.
That level of financial independence is, however, subject to the government’s authority to pass upon the fees and charges to passengers and the right of the government to a certain percentage of their profit.
Although privately funded, the new airports would have to comply with government regulations on air traffic, immigration, customs, security and quarantine.
Under our laws, those services cannot be assigned or delegated to private parties. If some of them, for reasons of expediency or convenience, can be outsourced, they have to be closely monitored or supervised.
Knowing the sense of entitlement that some government regulators are prone to in the performance of their assigned tasks, aligning those functions with efficient airport operation would be a big challenge to their management team.
Any action on the part of the operators that, from the point of view of the government staff, appears to be in derogation of their “sovereign” responsibility could draw stiff opposition or even a threat of criminal action.
Note that the recent complaints against Naia’s operation involved immigration employees who used their authority to offload passengers to extort money and security personnel who brazenly filched money from foreigners even in the presence of a CCTV monitor.
Except probably for some business-related guidelines, the airport operators would have no say in the selection and assignment of employees to government offices inside the airport.
And when corrupt employees get caught, getting them dismissed would be hamstrung by laborious civil service rules on discipline, not to mention the intervention of politically influential personalities.
Given these circumstances, the consortiums behind the Naia rehabilitation and the new airports have their work cut out for them in accomplishing the goal of making travel to and from the Philippines a pleasant experience. INQ
For comments, please send your email to “[email protected].”