By Emmie V. Abadilla
No one challenged San Miguel Corporation (SMC)’s proposal to build a P735.6-billion New Manila International Airport (NMIA) in Bulacan in yesterday’s (July 31, 2019) deadline set by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the Swiss Challenge, clearing the way for the conglomerate to be awarded with the project immediately.
As soon as the government’s inter-agency Technical Working Group makes its recommendation, a Notice to Proceed expected to be issued by first week of September. Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier declared during a roundtable interview with the Manila Bulletin that if no party comes up during the Swiss Challenge, SMC can start the project before 2019 is over.
“We still have a long way to go, but with the continued support of government and everyone, we hope to get started working right away,” SMC President and COO Ramon S. Ang remarked after no one made a counter-bid for the NMIA under the DOTr’s Swiss challenge requirement.
SMC proposed to construct a world-class, major international gateway with 4-6 parallel runways, modern terminals, a sea port, an industrial zone, plus necessary infrastructure such as expressways, in Bulacan province, north of Metro Manila to decongest the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City and improve traffic in Metro Manila.
The airport project will cover about 2,500 hectares, with terminal facilities capable of accommodating 100 million passengers per year. It is expected to be operational within four to six years from the start of construction, which is targeted before the end of 2019.
The NMIA is expected to generate about a million jobs and jump-start economic growth as well as tourism in Bulacan and neighboring provinces.
“From the time we first proposed to build a new international gateway, our goal was simple: Help address the perennial problem of airport congestion, which has weighed down many aspects of our lives,” according to Ang.
“What we hope to build is a long-term solution – a sustainable and world-class Philippine gateway with enough runways and facilities to meet current and future needs,” he underscored. “It is our single biggest investment in our country. It is a landmark Filipino project that will be built at no cost to government and with no subsidies or guarantees of any kind.”
Last April, the DOTr invited interested companies and groups to submit comparative proposals to fund, design, construct, operate and maintain the Bulacan airport project under a 50-year concession period.
The agency gave original proponent status to SMC’s NMIA project, which the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) approved in April, 2018.
“We thank President Duterte for bringing this historic project closer to reality. We share in government’s vision to make this country better, and the lives of the Filipino people better,” Ang said.
The entire development, consisting of world-class terminals and airport facilities, will be built on a 2,500-hectare property in Bulakan, Bulacan, adjacent to the Manila Bay.
Ang said the new terminal will be equipped with cutting-edge technology include artificial intelligence and facial recognition capabilities that will allow the start of a passenger’s checking in and immigration process as soon as he is recognized by the cameras at the curbside of the airport.
The new airport will be accessible from Metro Manila in less than 30 minutes, via interconnected expressways and rail — including a shoreline expressway that will traverse Manila Bay and head straight to NMIA.