SPIA auction, the backstory

Published December 19, 2019, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

Fil C. Sionil
Fil C. Sionil

Tuesday’s scene seems like a deja vu.

It brought this chronicler back to 20 years ago when the government auctioned off 35 percent of total outstanding capital stock of the Philippine National Bank (PNB).

There was the same look of anticipation for the auctioneer as the clock ticks near the lunch. One could almost see the invisible question mark painted on the faces of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) selection team chaired by Reynato Abutan of the government of Cavite, on whether any of the seven pre-qualified bidders would show up.

The concern and apprehension stemmed from the earlier request of Metro Pacific and Langham (Megawide) to extend by another three months the date of the submission of proposals and opening of the bid, which was turned down because any delay would cascade to the timetable for the construction of the $10-billion Sangley Point International Airport (SPIA).

For Mr. Abutan, adhering to the timetable is essential as the country needs another gateway. He flew back home a day before from Bangkok via the flag-carrier, Philippine Airlines (PAL), arriving at 3:30 in the morning. However, it took him nearly four hours to get out of the airport because of convergence of hundreds of passengers coming in from Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

At 12 noon, there was a lone bidder, the consortium of CCCC-MAC Consortium, composed of the China Communications Construction Company, Ltd., and MacroAsia Corporation of Lucio “Kapitan” Tan, to jointly undertake with the local government of Cavite the first phase of the SPIA project. The CCCC-MAC consortium was represented by Belgium Tandoc of MacroAsia and Ms. Wo of CCCC. Just like in the 1999 auction of PNB when only one bidder showing up – Starbuck consortium. The special purpose vehicle owned by Kapitan, was represented by Mr. Jimmy B. Bautista.

CCCC, based on its 2018 annual report, is the world’s largest port design and construction firm as well as the world’s largest road and bridge design and construction company. Two of its iconic projects are the Changi Airport of Singapore and the 55 kilometer cable-stayed Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge which opened in 2018. MacroAsia is one of the leading providers of aviation-related support services in the country. It is an affiliate of PAL.

Because of its commitment to stick to the timetable in implementing the project, there will be no Christmas holiday rest for the PPP-Selection Committee, whose task is to evaluate the legal, technical, and financial qualifications of the consortium. Should the CCCC-MAC be deemed qualified, the next step for committee is the detailed review its technical and financial proposals.

The ante has been increased to $4 billion from of the initial estimate $3 billion for the first phase of the project covering the construction of a single runway and airport facilities capable of handling 25 million passengers annually. The notice of the selection for the joint venture will be disclosed on or before January 15, 2020. Ground-breaking is scheduled sometime early February. “I will be at the ground breaking, ” said Transportation Secretary Arthur P. Tugade.

It’s five days before Christmas. For the government of Cavite, the early celebration with local officials and others involved in the auction included a sumptuous lunch consisting of the old-time favorites caldereta and fried chicken brought by the consortium CCCC-MAC.

In the meantime, let me ask: Who is this airline operations expert who offered to steer Purefoods, an affiliate of San Miguel Corporation? He will decide this January whether to accept or just savor his recent retirement from the aviation industry, spending time with his two grandchildren, playing golf with his wife and buddies, and attending to a few directorships.

In the meantime, have a blissful holiday and enjoy the Christmas break.

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