The construction of the new Manila International Airport (MIA) in Bulacan has long been a plan of the late business tycoon Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, Jr., Senate President Vicente Sotto III said on Monday.
Sotto disclosed this as he explained his and the Upper Chamber’s position to pass with urgency the House bill on the franchise application of the San Miguel Aerocity Inc. for its construction of the 2,500-hectare domestic and international airport in Bulakan, Bulacan.
The proponent is a subsidiary of the San Miguel Corporation (SMC).
The Senate leader admitted that he is personally pushing for the P735-billion airport project which he said was not only the brainchild of SMC vice chairman and Chief Operating Officer Ramon Ang, but also of him and Cojuangco.
“Many of our colleagues support this measure, the [House Bill No.] 7507, and I will be very candid, this is also my idea, it’s not just the idea of Ramon Ang. This has been the idea of Danding Cojuangco for a long time, the chairman of the party, that’s why I’m pushing for this,” Sotto said in their plenary session Monday night.
Cojuangco, former SMC chairman and chief executive officer, died of heart failure and pneumonia on June 16 of this year. He was 85.
The business tycoon and sports enthusiast had also been involved in politics and founded the Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition. Sotto currently chairs the political party.
“I’m part of the group that thought about this [airport project]. We don’t want to give government any headache, not a single centavo from the government. It’s all San Miguel,” Sotto said.
“I have nothing to do with it, I’m not involved, but it was part of my idea together with Danding Cojuango and Ramon Ang many years ago,” he clarified.
“That’s the reason that we want it supported by the others (senators), and they are supportive.”
House Bill No. 7507 was scheduled for approval on second reading Monday.
In a text message to reporters later, Sotto said they have to approve the franchise bill on final reading within this week to give time for the bicameral meetings and its ratification before the Congress’ month-long suspension starting October 14.
“There is a three-day rule because unlike CREATE, it is not certified as urgent. Therefore there won’t be time for a bicam and ratification before the [October] 14th break,” he explained.
“SMC is already spending billions for the country and further delay is regressive to their investment,” he added.
During their plenary session, Senator Pia Cayetano protested how the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) Act has been sidelined by the senators’ push for the passage of the San Miguel Aerocity franchise bill.
In appealing to her colleagues to prioritize the CREATE bill, Cayetano said she was “envious” that senators were supporting the airport project more over the tax bill, which she noted is also an urgent measure under the Duterte administration.
She said she also wanted to be given time to study and interpolate comprehensively the Aerocity franchise bill since it also contains tax incentive provisions that could conflict with those in the CREATE bill.
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said Cayetano should not be envious because they are also supportive of the CREATE bill and that it has been “on the table every day”.
Senators, however, have reservations on the proposed removal of the incentives and its possible effect on industries and workers.
Zubiri also said that it was a “no-brainer” that they will feel strongly and favor the airport project more.
“If it was as simple as bringing down the corporate income tax, we will pass it in 30 secs, I’ll move for its approval. But it will affect the lives of many million of Filipinos, that is why it’s a bit longer,” Zubiri told Cayetano.
San Miguel Aerocity, Inc. had committed to establish the new MIA at no cost to the government.