16 May 2014
By Miguel R. Camus
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is considering the proposal of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) to put up a $10-billion international air gateway at a reclamation project in Manila Bay.
Michael Sagcal, Transportation department spokesman, said the agency was “very open” to the SMC proposal to establish the airport in the bay area covering the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas.
“We invite SMC to make a more formal presentation and to submit a proposal to us,” Sagcal said in an interview, adding that the massive airport project was presented to Malacañang on Wednesday.
Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya was present when SMC president Ramon Ang unveiled the airport plans to President Aquino. The project of SMC, which is part owner of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, would be located at CyberBay Corp.’s disputed waterfront reclamation project in Manila Bay, Sagcal said.
San Miguel, which owns a stake in flag carrier Philippine Airlines, told the Philippine Stock Exchange in a disclosure that reports of its bid to build the four-runway hub in Manila Bay were “accurate.”
It was not immediately clear how SMC’s airport project—an unsolicited proposal—would pan out since the DOTC earlier enlisted the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency to identify a second gateway to the country.
Also, the Aquino administration maintains a stance against unsolicited proposals, stating on several occasions that it prefers an open bid process.
But Abaya said in a text message on Thursday that an unsolicited proposal “isn’t illegal or prohibited, but again, the bias is toward solicited open and transparent bidding, which SMC is open to.”
Abaya said in March that JICA had identified the former US naval base in Sangley Point, Cavite, south of Metro Manila, as an ideal location.
“If SMC’s proposal turns out to be viable, we will consider it alongside JICA’s recommendations,” Sagcal said.
Airlines are frustrated with heavy congestion and other woes at Manila’s existing international airport, which has been named the worst in the world for two years running by an online travel guide.
The airport was hit by air conditioning failures in sweltering weather last month, just as millions of Filipinos began traveling for the Easter holidays—forcing Aquino to make a public apology.
The airport was built in 1981 to service six million passengers a year, but its terminals handled more than 32 million in 2012, according to the airport authority.
Philippine Airlines and other carriers routinely suffer flight delays as Manila and other airports across the country struggle to handle surging traffic.
Manila’s Terminal 1 was named the worst in the world for the second year running in 2013 by travel website “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports”.
Travelers criticized its “dilapidated facilities,” airport workers—particularly taxi drivers—long waiting times and rude officials.—With a report from Agence France-Presse