December 12, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Gov’t urged to develop Clark, Sangley as international gateways

The government should consider having two international gateways to cope with anticipated passenger growth in the future, according to the Tieng-Sy consortium that earlier proposed a $50-billion project for an airport and economic zone off Sangley Point in Cavite.

In a statement on Thursday, All-Asia Resources & Reclamation Corp. (ARRC) said the government should put up an airport in Sangley, Cavite, and another one in Clark, Pampanga.

“These two are strategically located to serve the northern and southern parts of Luzon. Those in Metro Manila can choose which one is more convenient to them which will also help ease traffic,” ARRC Vice-Chairman Edmundo T. Lim was quoted as saying.

The government announced earlier this week that the planned P74.56-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Development Project, a public-private partnership (PPP) initiative, is on hold for now as Transportation authorities consolidate proposals in order to make airport decongestion efforts more coherent.

This means, the Department of Transportation (DoTr) will be looking at a wholistic approach to the country’s airport woes, as well as proposals to develop nearby airports such as the Clark International Airport.

ARRC’s Mr. Lim said they are ready to proceed with their proposal to build an airport in Sangley without the government spending a single cent. He added the new international airport in Sangley can be operational within four to five years after the government gives a notice to proceed.

“It will be built by our company in partnership with foreign partners without the need for a single cent from the government. We have already signed all the contracts to make this happen. We are ready but we need the government to give its nod,” Mr. Lim said.

In the case of Clark, the ARRC official said the airport should be upgraded, while its operations and maintenance should be privatized.

“We can have two airports we can be proud of, not just one. Clark is underutilized because it really needs to have a new terminal and infrastructure for easy access. It is the one that must be privatized, not NAIA,” he added.

ARRC, which teamed up with the Sy family’s Belle Corp., earlier submitted to the Duterte administration on Aug. 1 its Philippine Global Gateway project, which includes a proposal to develop an airport and economic zone at Sangley Point.

The group also submitted a P1-billion proposal to the government to use the Danilo Atienza Air Base (DAA) in Cavite to immediately decongest the NAIA while awaiting the construction of a new gateway. However, DoTr officials said this doesn’t qualify as an unsolicited proposal.

The battle of Philippine tycoons to build a new airport in the nation’s capital is heating up as San Miguel Corp. proposed a P700-billion ($14-billion) facility, rivaling the offer submitted by the Tieng-Sy consortium.

The conglomerate has submitted a plan to the Department of Transportation with a provision for up to six runways in a 2,500-hectare property in Bulacan province, President Ramon S. Ang said in a phone interview with Bloomberg. It will be built without any guarantee or a subsidy from the government, he said.

“We will finance everything, build everything by ourselves and take the risk,” Mr. Ang said Wednesday. The government could sell the 600-hectare property where the current Manila airport complex is located for $20 billion and have the area converted into a new business district, he said.

Philippine President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who has vowed to boost infrastructure spending to a record, is also counting on private investors to upgrade facilities as Manila struggles to cope with rising flight traffic and road congestion.

Air passengers passing through Manila will probably more than double to 140 million by 2035 from about 60 million in 2014, according to the International Air Transport Association. The present airport, with four terminals, is already handling traffic in excess of its capacity of 31 million fliers a year, according to IATA.

A bigger airport will help the nation’s travel and tourism industry, which accounted for 6.1% of the economy in 2016, up from 4.2% the previous year, according to data from the World Travel & Tourism Council.

The government also plans to double the capacity of an airport at a former US military base north of Manila.

San Miguel, the Philippines’ largest company, plans to initially build 4 runways with a length of 3.5 kilometers and width of 600 meters that can serve 100 million passengers annually. Eventually, the project can be expanded to 6 runways and service 150 million passengers, according to the proposal.

The airport proposal in Bulacan, which Transport Undersecretary Roberto Lim on Wednesday said is being reviewed, will also link with San Miguel’s elevated rail project and will complement the airport in the former Clark military airbase.

This is the second airport offer from San Miguel, which submitted a $10-billion plan to build an airport off Manila Bay in 2014. -- Imee Charlee C. Delavin and Bloomberg